Bar Exam

Man who was told he failed bar exam actually passed, and he blames software

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Colin Darnell headshot

Colin Darnell.

When Colin Darnell received word in December that he did not pass New York’s online bar exam, he had a feeling the scoring may have been wrong because he was one of various people with software problems during the test.

His instincts were correct, and according to him, two Multistate Performance Tests were submitted for scoring. Rather than scoring the one with his answers, his test was scored with a blank MPT, which he suspects was uploaded when ExamSoft support tried to fix his software problems remotely.

The correct MPT was graded last week, and Darnell says his total score climbed from 247 to 288. The New York State Board of Bar Examiners offers public lookup of people who passed the bar on its website, and Darnell’s name is on the list.

John McAlary, executive director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners, explained the situation to the ABA Journal in an email.

“The board recently discovered that the MPT answer uploaded on exam day was from the first answer file rather than the second file even though he completed the MPT in that second answer file. As soon as the board became aware of the issue this week, the board corrected it, and he passed the exam. The problem occurred only with this candidate. We are working with Examsoft to ensure that it will not happen again,” he wrote, referring to the company that provided software for the October remote exam and will also be the software provider for the February bar.

Darnell blames his bar experience on ExamSoft. The company was contacted by the ABA Journal on Friday morning and did not provide a response by Tuesday morning.

In October, he told the Journal the software wasn’t recording video when he took the MPT, and after erroneously being told by ExamSoft support that he should finish the test without being video recorded, he contacted the New York State Board of Law Examiners, which said an exam would not be accepted without a video recording.

Approximately 50 minutes later, while on hold again with ExamSoft support, Darnell decided to withdraw from the timed test, which he disclosed in a tweet that was retweeted 48 times.

Shortly after the tweet was posted, Darnell says McAlary called and told him the problem could be fixed, and Darnell could finish the exam. Then ExamSoft support called, and Darnell says they fixed the software problem by accessing his laptop through Zoom.

When New York released its bar exam results in December, Darnell tweeted that he did not pass the bar, but kept scoring suspicions to himself.

“I was trying to play my cards pretty close to my chest, because I didn’t want to risk being wrong,” he says.

He did not sign up for the February 2021 exam, in part because he and his family contracted COVID-19 around Dec. 23. He also didn’t want to go through taking another online bar exam. He did ask the New York State Board of Law Examiners for his test answers, and says he got a voicemail from McAlary on Jan. 19, stating that there were issues with his results.

McAlary called back Jan. 21 with news that the correct MPT was graded, and he did pass the New York bar, according to Darnell.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners in an email to the Journal said it was unaware of Darnell’s situation. For the October online bar exam, scoring was left to the jurisdictions. In an Oct. 7 news release, the NCBE stated that 30,000 people took the remote October exam, which it described as a success, overall.

Darnell disagrees.

“I would not wish what I went through on anyone,” he says.

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