Whether for safety purposes or merely for the sake of convenience, more than half of states offered a remote Bar Exam in July 2021. And with COVID cases on the rise, it’s likely that remote offerings will also dominate the February 2022 session.
While it’s certainly a much-welcome option for many, online exams can be extremely nerve-racking and stressful for a lot of people—as if taking the bar exam alone wasn’t stressful enough. Between the potential for technology issues and the risk of accidentally flagging the monitoring software, a remote bar exam might sound like your worst nightmare.
But, don’t panic. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and here are six tips to prepare for a smooth, stress-free remote bar exam experience.
- Prepare your device. Well in advance, check to make sure your device meets the minimum specs to run the exam software and download and install all of the latest OS updates plus any browser plug-ins required by the testing portal. Run your anti-virus scanning software and consider using another “tune up” solution like PC Matic or Advanced System Care to clear out any other cobwebs that might impact your device’s performance. The day of the exam, make sure your charging cord is handy (or already plugged in), and you’ve chosen a location with good, reliable internet connectivity—hardwired, if possible, to avoid any wonky WiFi issues.
- Find a good location. Days before the remote exam, nail down a testing location where you won’t be interrupted. Proctoring software will flag and/or disqualify you if someone walks into the room during the exam, so you might want to lock the door. You’ll also need decent lighting for the facial recognition software to work properly.
- Eliminate all distractions. Shut down your email program along with any other software that’s not needed and turn off notifications. Most proctoring systems will actually lockdown the computer to prevent use of any other software, but you’ll also want to put your cell phone out of reach and remove smartwatches or other wearable devices. The last thing you want after all of the prep work is a SnapChat notification to steal your attention and cause you to be disqualified.
- Know the “flaggable” behaviors. Most proctoring software uses AI to monitor test-takers’ behavior and when suspicious activity is detected, it’s flagged for review by a human proctor. But certain behaviors will cause immediate disqualification. Aside from another person entering the room, most AI monitors will also flag for cell phone or other device use and if your face leaves the video frame for any reason. If you’re in a situation that requires you to wear a mask during the exam, you’ll want to authenticate your identity while wearing the mask and then keep it on throughout the duration of the test.
- Clear the area around you. Ridding your test area of clutter and distractions is important for two reasons. First, a distraction could cause you to be disqualified. Second, the proctoring software does use your laptop’s camera to keep tabs on you and look for suspicious behavior. That means anything that’s within the image frame can and will be seen by the proctor. While it’s highly unlikely you have any sensitive documents hanging on the wall, it’s a good idea to fire up your web cam and clear the frame of any personal details to protect your privacy.
- Practice working under time pressure. Each section of the exam will be timed and must be completed within an allotted time period. Knowing that the clock is ticking can be extremely anxiety-inducing and many people panic under pressure. Practicing with time-pressured tests can help train your performance, accelerate your thinking and writing process and help you work more efficiently and confidently under pressure—which is not only good for the bar exam, but also life afterward as a practicing attorney.
Certainly, the pandemic has forced us all to adapt in many, many ways, but the shift to remote education and testing has been particularly monumental. While a remote bar exam is more convenient for many, it also gives rise to a number of new challenges. Preparing well in advance can help ward off any test-time crises and help you feel more confident, allowing you to apply all that you’ve learned in a successful performance.