Law Student Laptops | Bar Bans MacBook Pro: States and SKUs
Law student laptops are stirring up a legal conundrum. The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar feature enables students to cheat on the Bar exam in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina, and possibly others to come.
News of warnings by a prominent exam administration company broke on Engadget, with the publication sourcing Katherine Silver Kelly, a law professor at Ohio State University that specializes in state admissions to the legal profession.
Apparently, predictive analytics features in the Touch Bar give test takers a source of information undetectable by proctors. This prompted actions by ExamSoft, a software company that creates and administers the exam in several states, to ban certain late-2016 MacBook Pros from the Bar.
It was announced that technicians in several states will be on hand at test sites to disable the Touch Bar at the next exam date in February. Some states (listed below) will not let the laptop in the exam room at all.
Which MacBook SKUs are bar exam proctors looking for specifically?
Proctors have eyes out for two models of MacBook Pro released in late 2016; a 13.3-inch and a 15.6-inch laptop—with specific instructions to look for two colors of MacBook: the Space Gray (left) and Silver (right).
According to Kelly, author of a popular test preparation blog called Barexamwizard, only Illinois and North Carolina are allowing use of MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar disabled.
How does one use the Touch Bar to crib answers? The Touch Bar is integrated into MacOS Sierra, so it draws from the same database as Mac apps like Mail, Safari, Siri, and others. Essentially a replacement for the Function Keys, Touch Bar allows users to fine tune features like autocomplete.
With the exception of states like Georgia, for example, which bans laptops outright for exam-taking, most states allow laptops for the Bar if they are pre-registered beforehand with the exam administrators.
Bar applicants basically use the laptop only to take the exam—typing essays into the administrator’s browser-based application, and in some cases using it for multiple choice sections.
Most students find typing essay responses has a speed advantage, but storing notes to aid on the test is grounds for confiscation of the laptop and immediate disqualification.
As law student laptops become more sophisticated integrating applications with touch hardware, this poses a problem for testing companies.