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Software problem further stresses, panics bar exam takers

On Tuesday, furious, frazzled and just plain freaked out bar exam takers flocked to social media to air their frustrations.

“I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown, literally, and I just want to relax and try to collect myself for tomorrow,” wrote one Minnesota bar taker on top-law-schools.com.

“I am not even mentally understanding or comprehending how this is possible. We better all pass,” tweeted another Minnesota exam taker.

The angst and ire was directed toward ExamSoft, the company that administers the software used by bar exam takers nationwide for the essay portion of the exam. On Tuesday, while anxious test takers tried to upload the essay portions of their exams to the ExamSoft server, many received error messages, causing panic that the exams would not be uploaded by each state’s individual deadlines  or, even worse, that essays would be lost.

“Your service is not working! Nothing works! We are in the middle of an exam!!!! Get this fixed!” one anxious test taker wrote on ExamSoft’s Facebook page.

The software company soon began to announce, state by state, that deadlines had been extended. Most states extended the deadlines to 9 p.m. or even midnight tonight. But Minnesota extended its deadline just to 8 a.m. this morning.

That was intentional, said Margaret Fuller Corneille, director of the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners. Fuller Corneille said that she wanted to be able to survey test takers at the beginning of the second exam day to see how many still were not able to upload their exams.

“I asked for a show of hands of anyone who did not receive a confirming email that their exams were uploaded, and I think 3 people raised their hands out of the 700 that we have sitting here in the room,” she said.

No essay answer will be lost, said Fuller Corneille. If the three remaining students with problems are not able to upload their answers, they can bring their computers into the Board of Law Examiners office tomorrow and allow the board’s IT staff to retrieve the encrypted files.

Kenneth Knotts, spokesman for ExamSoft, said the company regrets the extra stress experienced by test takers.

“First and foremost, we apologize to the affected exam takers for the delay in processing their answer files last night. We understand that is a stressful time for bar exam takers, and their experience last night was unacceptable to us. We will work very hard to repair the trust they have placed in our care,” Knotts said in a prepared statement.

ExamSoft, Knotts said, is still investigating the reason technical problems occurred. It took about six hours longer than usual to process all of the essay answers onto company servers, Knotts said. By this morning, most of the backlog answers had been processed, and those currently trying to upload answers did not have a delay, he said.

Minnesota has not lost an essay answer since it began using ExamSoft in 2003, said Fuller Corneille. This experience will not necessarily stop the law examiners from using the program again. But, she said, it is important to understand what went wrong.

“We certainly are hoping for a full explanation from them as to what happened and how it is they will prevent this from happening next time,” Fuller Corneille said.

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