Legal Education

Shortly before July bar exam, ExamSoft announces new Windows laptops likely won't run testing software

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If you have a 2022 Windows laptop with a 12th-generation Intel Core processor, it probably won’t work for the July bar exam.

The in-person test begins July 26, and candidates were apprised of the situation the week of July 11, a spokesperson for the National Conference of Bar Examiners told the ABA Journal. This exam is in person, but the laptop issue follows various software problems going back to 2020, when many jurisdictions switched to a remote test because of COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

ExamSoft, which provides the bar exam software, did not respond to a Journal interview request.

Ars Technica reports that the 12th-generation Intel Core processors have a mix of different chips to perform different tasks, unlike earlier processors in which the chips were identical. Software had to be modified to tell the difference between the chips, according to Ars Technica.

Beth Kaimowitz, director of academic success at the University of New Mexico School of Law, told the Journal that she recently spoke with an ExamSoft technician.

“He said that usually the ExamSoft software will not open at all with a computer with an Intel 12th-generation processor, but sometimes it would download one time but then not open a second time after the computer was turned off and on again,” she wrote in an email.

According to Kaimowitz, ExamSoft claimed that there was no workaround for the problem, and bar applicants with affected laptops had to use a different device for the test. Or they could handwrite test answers. The Multistate Bar Examination, a series of multiple-choice questions, is done by hand, while the essay and performance test portions are generally typed on laptops.

“Why are jurisdictions continuing to rely on ExamSoft? How much harm or threatened harm must this entity cause before someone in authority will say enough?” asked Marsha Griggs to the Journal, an associate law professor and director of academic enhancement at the Washburn University School of Law, who also is the bar advocacy chair for the Association of Academic Support Educators.

It’s hard to know whether ExamSoft could have anticipated the problem, according to Emery Berger, a computer science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

In January, Intel announced that it had 12th-generation core chips for laptops, according to another Ars Technica article, and the company launched a new category of the computer processors for laptops in May, Tech Advisor reports.

“Software is complicated and bugs are inevitable. In retrospect, everything is obvious, but I can see why they might not have anticipated this issue,” Berger told the Journal.

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