February bar to be remote, last to include Indiana essay questions

Indiana will again be administering its bar exam remotely in February but, unlike the test given during the summer, this time the exam will be two-days and applicants will not be allowed to consult any outside materials.

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered the bar exam to be conducted remotely Feb. 23 and 24. With the COVID-19 virus surging across the state, the health risk remains too great to bring all the applicants together and give the test in person.

For the February bar, the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners is switching to ExamSoft’s Examplify software.

Previously, Indiana planned to use the Exam360 software from ILG Technologies for the summer 2020 bar exam. It had used this software since February 2018, but the remote application caused so many headaches, the state tossed the program and just emailed questions to the applicants.

Several jurisdictions across the country relied on ExamSoft for their remote exams administered in the summer and fall. According to the ABA Journal, the National Conference of Bar Examiners claims that 98% of the applicants to the October bar exam had no software issues.

However, the ABA Journal recounted stories from test takers who got locked out or had the software crash while they were answering the questions. Applicants were having to call ExamSoft’s tech support for assistance, and some only got help when they publicly tweeted about the difficulties they were enduring.

In deciding to administer the bar exam in the summer of 2020, Indiana reduced the test to a single day. The technological problems forced the Supreme Court to delay the exam by one week and then to make the exam open book.

Indiana applicants to the July 2020 exam were given a full refund from ILG for the cost of purchasing the software, according to Bradley Skolnik, executive director of the Indiana Office of Admissions & Continuing Education.

The February 2021 exam will mark the end of a chapter in Indiana legal history as it will be the last time the state offers its own bar exam. The Indiana Supreme Court, pointing to the portability of the scores and the rigorous testing of each question, will be adopting the Uniform Bar Exam beginning in July 2021.

Currently, the Indiana Bar Exam includes six essay questions written by the Indiana Board of Law Examiners and specifically about Indiana state law. Under the UBE, the Indiana questions will be replaced with the Multistate Essay Exam, which also consists of six questions prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners that cover such legal topics as constitutional law, evidence, family law and torts.

Michigan adopted the UBE little more than a week after Indiana announced it was switching.  Now the Hoosier state and all its neighbors – Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan – will soon be offering the national bar exam.

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