Colorado held its first-ever remotely administered bar exam in February, and for bar administrators, the exam worked well enough to be repeated in July. Whether remote options will remain beyond the pandemic, however, is unclear.
Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Regulation Counsel Jessica Yates said the remote exam was taken by 313 individuals across several states, and one possibly taking it in another country.
“It appears to have been very successful,” Yates said. She added that approximately 13 people had some technical issues with passwords or software, but those were resolved quickly. There were no test-takers unable to complete the test due to technology issues.
Going into the remote exam, Yates said the bar administrators were confident in the software. The vendor, ExamSoft, an educational assistance tech company, worked with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to develop a remote bar exam in 2020. Several states used ExamSoft for administering their bar exams last year.
“We’re happy that we were right and that things did go right for the February exam,” she said.
In a press release, the Colorado Supreme Court cited the continuing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic for large events and Colorado’s success with a remotely administered bar examination as reasons for the remote exam in July.
In November, the Colorado Supreme Court had decided to host the February bar remotely due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The previous bar exam, held in July 2020, drew complaints from examinees, attorneys and law school faculty when it was held in-person.
Colorado was not alone in administering a remote bar this February. In total, 33 out of 50 states offered remote exams for February’s bar, according to the NCBE website. Only 16 jurisdictions held non-remote bar exams. Louisiana did not offer a February bar exam of any type.
Although the February Colorado bar exam went well, other states have experienced issues with remote testing. Bloomberg Law reported last month that six Democratic senators wrote to the CEO of ExamSoft inquiring about changes the company would make in response to reports that students, specifically students of color or with disabilities, faced “alarming” issues in using the software for the exam, were locked out of tests and were accused of cheating. In response, CEO Sebastian Vos wrote that the company had not found any such issues.
The American Bar Association reported in December that in California’s remote October exam, over 3,000 examinees had their videos flagged for review, and “dozens” reported getting violation notices from the office of admissions.
In total, over 8,000 examinees took the California bar exam in October, according to the ABA. Attorneys representing the test-takers and documents reviewed by the ABA Journal revealed that violation notices included references to examinee eyes being intermittently out of view of the webcams; non-functioning audio and test-takers not being present behind their computers during the exam.
The ABA Journal reported that, in the end, only 47 of all test-takers were implicated.
One California bar examinee told the ABA Journal that his laptop crashed on the first essay question, and he received a violation notice for using an electronic device during the test. He said he was using the phone to contact the California Bar and ExamSoft for help, and his laptop experienced technical problems again soon after.
For the future of options for remote bar exams in Colorado, Yates said Colorado, being a Uniform Bar Exam state, would follow the guidance of the NCBE, which has not provided any indications of future exams beyond July.
Typically, Colorado’s July administration of the bar has over 700 applicants, according to the Supreme Court’s release. Currently, 13 other jurisdictions have announced they will hold a remote bar exam in July. Colorado’s July exam will be held July 27-28.