Indiana applicants can use laptops to take bar exam

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While the state Board of Law Examiners considers making substantive changes to the Indiana Bar Exam, technology has already ushered in a change to how the test is taken.

February 2012 applicants were the first allowed to use their laptops on the first day of the exam. They could type their essays as opposed to handwriting their thoughts in the traditional blue book.

The push for the ability to use computers came from the test-takers themselves, said Brad Skolnik, executive director of the Indiana Board of Law Examiners. Over and over as the applicants turned in their essays, they commented this was the first time they had ever written their compositions by hand.

Use of laptops during the test has been growing dramatically. Since the initial introduction of computers when 60 applicants participated in the laptop pilot program, the number of keyboard users jumped to an estimated 60 percent in July 2012 and rose again to nearly 70 percent in February 2013.

Skolnik anticipates 80 percent of test-takers will be using laptops in the near future.

“We’ve been very pleased with the reaction we’ve received and the success of the program,” he said. “Test-takers as a whole have reacted very favorably to having the option to use laptops.”

When Cohen & Malad LLP attorney TaKeena Thompson took the bar exam in 2009, she did not have the option of using a laptop. She admitted she was a little distressed at the beginning because, like many attorneys of her generation, she used computers all through law school to type notes and take tests.

Yet, Thompson discovered she liked handwriting her essays. She believes she understood the material and presented her thoughts better than if she had used her laptop. In fact, she has since advised some test-takers to opt for writing the essays by hand.

Indiana was one of the last states to allow laptops into the bar exam. The state uses software from ExamSoft, a national vendor that provides bar exam programs to a majority of the bar exams across the country.

At present, only the essay portion of the bar exam can be taken on a computer. The Multistate Bar Exam multiple choice questions still must be completed by hand, but Skolnik expects in the near future that part of the test will become automated as well.

Applicants download the program from ExamSoft onto their own computer. They will not be able to access the software until exam day and once they launch the program, they will not be able to access anything else on their computers.

Being able to use a laptop, Skolnik said, ensures applicants have the opportunity to use many of the same exam-taking skills they used in law school.

In addition to using their own computers, applicants must pay an extra $125 for the laptop option. The fee covers the cost of the software as well as helps pay for the extra IT support in the venue where the bar exam is given, Skolnik said.

Stephanie Williams, a clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore, paid the fee and used her laptop during the essay portion of the bar exams in both Indiana and Illinois. Initially, she said having a computer helped her boost her scores.

“If I wrote it, I could not say I would have had the same outcome,” she said.

Then she stopped and reconsidered, noting if she had practiced taking the bar by hand she likely would have passed. Still, she continued, the computer enabled her to neatly insert additional points into her essays whereas if writing by hand she would have had to make a notation up the side of the paper. Moreover, her handwriting can be illegible when she is writing quickly, so the examiners might not have been able to decipher her thoughts.

Skolnik said the BLE does not keep statistics of the passage rate of those who use laptops versus those who take the test by hand.

Williams’ advice to exam-takers is not to make changes on test day. Whatever the applicants did in law school, she said, they should not switch for the bar exam.•


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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

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