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Professors Brittany L. Raposa and Tania N. Shah

Professor Tania N. Shah

The current global pandemic, COVID-19, continues to change the bar exam On October 19, 2020, the NCBE announced it will allow jurisdiction the option to offer the bar exam remotely for the February 2021 Bar Exam. What does this mean for a bar taker?

Since every state is different, it’s best to get familiar with what your jurisdiction’s bar exam will look like. If your jurisdiction has not announced going online, be sure to check their website regularly for any updates, because a decision like this could be on the way due to the pandemic.

How hard can it be, you probably take your bar class online, right?

Studying for the bar exam online will not be the same as actually taking the bar exam online. There is a difference between taking a bar exam course online and a bar exam online.

We understand that this is an abrupt change. For some time now, you’ve likely been preparing to take the bar exam in paper and in person. We also understand that additional fears, other than the bar exam itself, may be surfacing:

1. What happens if my computer or the exam-taking system crashes?
2. What happens if my answers do not upload?
3. What if I can’t find a quiet place without distractions to take the exam?

Things happen. Some days your internet hates you, and other days your dog will not leave you alone for even an hour, never mind the time and diligence it takes to sit for a lengthy exam. The hope is that with the “July 2020” exam the bar examiners worked out all the kinks, tested out these issues, and would have figure out every single worst-case-scenario. This Guide is meant to help you adapt to these changes in your studies and in your preparation.

Is Big Brother Watching You?

Well, yes. Many jurisdictions will likely utilize some type of remote proctoring feature. It is even allegedly scanning the room to ensure no one is there (not even your bar-exam support puppy). But in a regular exam, you are also proctored closely. So, this is not different, just a bit creepier since you are at home!

The purpose of remote proctoring is to prevent cheating. It’s extremely difficult to cheat on the bar exam when you take it in person, so each jurisdiction likely wants to establish similar security if possible. So, no matter what, you want to avoid any appearance of cheating when you are taking the exam. It is simply not worth it.

This is the right decision.

Here is the thing: this is the right thing for the states to do. On top of the stress of taking the exam, stressing over technology, and wondering why you have to be the test-case for this, you should not also have to worry about contracting a potentially deadly disease. The most important thing right now is for you all to stay healthy and be able to take the exam – and this is the best option right now in many jurisdictions.

So here are some guidelines to approaching the  on-line bar exam:

  1. Practice with study questions online. In a normal setting, we tell students to try to practice with written questions so you can write on the questions and prepare like you are taking the bar exam. Now, our advice is a little different: practice with the question prompts online. You are no longer going to have the luxury of having an exam question printed out for you. You do not want the first time you are reading and taking an exam prompt online to be exam day. You want to practice as much as possible as your real experience would be, and now that is an experience online.
  2. Find a location now. You want to alleviate as much stress as possible for yourself. In order to decrease feelings of being overwhelmed, find your spot to take the exam NOW. Try to find an isolated room or office where distractions are small. Make a list of potential places you can take the exam and test each one out. Further, whatever the location, be sure you have a working and reliable internet connection. If you need an internet upgrade, or need to take the exam in a location with better connection, it’s time to find that out now.
  3. Talk to those around you. Notify anyone near you that you will be taking a bar exam remotely for two days. This includes family members, friends, and neighbors. You want to minimize distractions as much as possible, and having this conversations can be helpful.
  4. Check your computer’s system requirements. This is critical. You want to make sure your computer comports with all of the requirements necessary to take the exam. It’s possible that your jurisdiction might not have this information available yet. Be sure to check your jurisdiction’s website regularly for updates!
  5. Even though it’s remote and online, treat it like the actual bar exam. Just because this exam is online, doesn’t mean it’s any less serious or stressful. You should treat the exam as if you’re taking it in person. What does this mean?
    • Dress comfortably. You want to be as comfortable as possible when you are taking the exam.
    • Prepare your meals. You want to have your lunch prepared just as you would if you were traveling to take a bar exam.
    • Wake up and be ready. You should wake up at the same time you would if you were going to take the exam in person. Mentally and physically prepare yourself. You do not want to sit at your desk a few minutes before the exam is about to begin.
    • Be familiar with your jurisdictional requirements. Even though you are at home, there may be items that are prohibited to be near you while you are taking the exam. Make sure you are familiar with your jurisdiction’s rules and procedures.
    • Keep your spaces separate. Where you take the bar exam should not be the same room in which you decompress from your day. Try to keep the spaces as separate as possible, especially in the day before the bar exam and in the days in between.
    • Do not study the day before the exam or in the days between the exam. This is advice we give to any bar taker, and this advice does not change now that you’re at home constantly surrounded by your study materials.
    • Take care of yourself. This should always be the case, but it is especially true now that you are all dealing with the trials and tribulations of life, a pandemic, and studying for the bar exam. Mental and physical health are so important. Make sure you are still taking breaks, exercising, eating right, and engaging in mindfulness techniques.

We know this is a frustrating, stressful, and undoubtedly crazy time right now. Although there are some things out of our control due to the pandemic, we have to take control over what we can, which is how we prepare and handle our current circumstances.

Some uncertainty still lies ahead regarding the bar exam, so be sure to check back here for any updates! We are all in this together.

Lots of Love and Support,

Brittany L. Raposa and Tania N. Shah


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