What Taking An Online Bar Exam Is Really Like
Are you taking an online bar exam? Are you wondering what it was like for other online bar exam takers? In this article, I’ll discuss my own experience taking an online bar exam, from start to finish!
What Taking An Online Bar Exam Is Really Like
The Night Before The Exam
The night before the exam, I set up my testing area per the BLE’s specifications. I cleared out a room in my basement. I removed everything in the room except for my laptop, my laptop charger, my chair, and my printer.
The Morning Of The Exam
Waking up, I knew it was going to be a long day. Only 15 essay questions stood before me and the completion of my jurisdiction’s online bar exam. The exam was set to begin at 8:30 AM. I was up two hours before, giving me enough time to have breakfast, drink a strong cup of coffee, and prepare myself for the marathon that was to come.
During that time, I ran through the day’s itinerary. There were five, one-hour long modules. Each contained three questions, and I had roughly 20 minutes per question. My online bar exam allowed for separate breaks between each module, but once a module was completed, you could not re-enter it. While the breaks helped me regroup throughout the exam, what perturbed me that morning were the “What ifs.” What if I forgot to add something to a question? What if I identified the wrong question category? Because I knew I couldn’t re-enter a module once completed, I knew I had to be on my game, focused and ready to answer with confidence.
Our exam was set to begin at 8:30 AM; however, the BLE notified us the password to enter the first module would become available at 7:55 AM. This allowed any eager test-takers to begin Module 1 earlier if they chose (giving them a longer break between Modules 1 and 2). I was one of those students. I logged into the software’s website around 8:15 AM with no problems and took the first module of my online bar exam.
Module 1: As Stressful As I Expected
Regarding those “What ifs” I mentioned earlier, no matter how I tried to stop them, they still managed to creep into my mind. Despite not having any technical issues with Module 1, the first three questions threw me for a loop, and I panicked. I was not confident in my answers, and I spent my one-hour break going over what I did wrong and what I would have changed. However, I should have used my time wisely and simply gotten a snack, gotten some water, or used the restroom if need be.
Ultimately, I tried to pull myself together for Module 2, but that was where everything, it seemed, went wrong.
Module 2: Dealing with the Unexpected Technical Issue
The BLE informed test takers that there would be a large gap surrounding Module 1. This would help accommodate any technical issues. The rest of the breaks would only be 15 minutes. The BLE also assured us that the exam software company would have many staff on hand on exam day to answer calls immediately if anything did go wrong. I thought, “I hope so. Taking an online bar exam comes with its own set of issues. The exam software company and the BLE need to make sure exam day goes as seamlessly as possible!” Because everything went fine before/during Module 1, I was not (that) worried.
Five minutes before Module 2 began—when I was able to log into the exam software’s website and retrieve the password unlocking that module—I clicked “Refresh.” Nothing happened. I clicked “Refresh” again. Still, nothing happened. I tried opening the site in a new tab. Still, nothing happened. This was my worst nightmare.
My phone was not near me because the BLE prohibited them in the testing area. I was scared that if I used my phone, the BLE I might think I cheated. But I was also scared if I didn’t get the technical issue fixed, all my studying would be for nothing.
Deciding the technical issue outweighed my other fears, and trying not to panic, I frantically called the exam software technical support line. Nobody answered. I was on hold for what seemed like forever. As my five-minute “window” to log into Module 2 quickly expired, I decided to call the BLE. Somebody answered and assured me that I would have the full hour for Module 2. He sheepishly acknowledged that everybody else was experiencing the same issue. While this alleviated some of my fears, it affected my stress levels going into Modules 2 and 3.
As confirmed by the BLE, I had the full hour to complete Module 2, but, with the time delay, I finished one minute before Module 3 was set to begin. Neither the exam software company nor the BLE was clear about whether or not I had to start Module 3 “on time” with the schedule or whether I could take a 15-minute break, delaying my start time. I didn’t want to delay Module 3 for fear of losing time. So, I visited the exam software’s website, got the password, and logged in.
What should have been a 15-minute break was really only one minute. “Technical glitches,” I thought, “I should have expected this with an online bar exam.”
Module 3 And Beyond
The stress resulting from no break between Modules 2 and 3 definitely affected me as I answered the questions in each subsequent module. I tried not to let the stress cloud my mind. I knew I had to shake it off. Eventually, I got into a rhythm and was able to answer the questions with as much confidence as I could muster.
Modules 3-5 passed as I expected. Luckily there weren’t any other technical issues, and I was able to seamlessly retrieve the passwords for the remaining modules. I had a one-hour lunch after Module 3. As I took the exam in my basement, I ate lunch and took my other remaining 15-minute break upstairs. I made an effort to stay away from the testing area. I tried to walk around and stretch my legs so they wouldn’t cramp during the exam. Ultimately, after submitting the last module, I finished the online bar exam and breathed freely for the first time in two and a half months.
My Overall Thoughts On Taking An Online Bar Exam
However, the brief sense of relief I experienced after the exam, quickly morphed into another bout of “What ifs.” What if I hadn’t stayed in the center of the camera? What if, when I moved in my chair, it caused me to go out of view of the camera? The BLE told us they would not score tests if either of these happened. This added stress compounded my anxiety about the actual substance of my exam answers. I kept thinking, “Was an online bar exam really better than an in-person exam?” True, I was able to take the test from my home, a familiar, comfortable environment. But at what cost?
I had so many other things to worry about. The substance of the test aside, while taking an online bar exam, I had to be cognizant of how I was positioned in my chair, how I was positioned in front of the camera, or any outside noises that might flag my video. Had the exam been in person, I would not have had to worry about these (although, I don’t know how I would have coped taking an exam in a mask!).
Furthermore, my condo scheduled painters and lawnmowers to work in front for the better part of the exam day. I was nervous because these outside sounds might distract me, or cause the exam software to flag me. However, my mother patrolled the area, trying to keep them out of my earshot. I am lucky in that regard. I had a firm support system in place to make taking the exam as “easy” as possible. Others were not as lucky.
Therefore, if asked about my experience in taking an online bar exam, I would have to say I have mixed feelings. Yes, I might have been in a more comfortable environment. However, the remote nature of the exam added more stress than it saved.
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