Thousands of aspiring attorneys took the Law School Admission Test from the comfort of home Monday—marking a first for the entrance exam.
The debut of the pared-down, online version of the LSAT—dubbed LSAT Flex—was not without technical glitches, however. Some test takers reported waiting an hour or more for an online proctor to give them access to the exam, while a few were mistakenly told by proctors that they could not use scratch paper during the test.
But overall, the Law School Admission Council is upbeat about the rollout of the online exam, which continued Tuesday, said president Kellye Testy. About 10,000 people are taking LSAT Flex this week.
“I think it has been going very well,” Testy said. “We like to focus on the candidate perspective in this. I know it’s always hard to be first, and any time you’re first, there will be a few people who have issues. And we’re learning from that. But overall, I think we had a good day.”
The council fast-tracked the development of LSAT Flex after canceling its March and April in-person exams amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (The council has since also canceled the in-person June test and is offering a second round of the LSAT-Flex on June 14. It has not yet determined whether July’s test will be in-person or online.)
The council announced LSAT Flex in early April, once it was clear that public health concerns would render large, in-person gatherings impossible in late spring and early summer. Those summer test dates are the final opportunities for people who plan to apply for a seat in law school in the fall.
“In three month’s time, we have moved incredibly quickly to make sure we meet this emergency need,” Testy said. “My heart is always with the candidates. I want them to know we are there for them and we’re going to stick with them through this.”
The council has now rolled out two entirely new versions of the LSAT in less than a year. The LSAT was a pencil-and-paper exam up until July 2019, when it began transitioning to a digital format that’s given in person on tablet computers. The digital exam also faced some early hiccups—namely connectivity issues and tablets that had not been fully charged. But the council has largely worked out the kinks over subsequent administrations.
The LSAT Flex is a shorter version of the traditional LSAT, taken over about two hours instead of the typical four hours, which includes administrative tasks and breaks. The online version has three 35-minute sections, each of which are scored. The traditional LSAT has five 35-minute sections, only four of which are scored. (The LSAT Flex eliminates one of the two logical reasoning sections and does not include breaks.)
Most of criticism leveled by early LSAT Flex takers on the popular online forum discussion Reddit was directed toward the online proctors, which were supplied by ProctorU—a third-party test security vendor. ProctorU provides live proctors who monitor test takers through the cameras and microphones of each taker’s computer. ProctorU also uses artificial intelligence and humans to review recorded video from those computers to catch cheating. But some Reddit users said their proctors were an hour or more late to log them into the test, leaving them hanging at an already stressful time.
Testy confirmed that a small number of LSAT Flex takers Monday experienced delays in getting connected to a proctor—a lag time caused in part by test takers reading and signing the LSAT’s certifying statement, which is a commitment to ethics that most online tests don’t include. The extra time takers took with the certifying statement created a small backlog with proctors for those scheduled to take the LSAT Flex later in the day, Testy said.
And confusion over whether scratch paper was allowed also hampered some test takers, said Steve Schwartz, chief executive officer of test prep provider LSAT Unplugged. Access to scratch paper is especially important during the logic games portion of the test, he added. That problem arose with just a handful of proctors who did not understand the rules—use of scratch paper is uncommon with remotely proctored exams—and has since been clarified, according to Testy.
“I don’t want to be too hard on [the council] since they’re doing their best and this is just the first Flex administration, but there’s been quite a bit of miscommunication between [the council] and ProctorU about what’s allowed vs. what’s not,” Schwartz said.
But some early LSAT Flex takers on Reddit said they didn’t experience any glitches during the Monday test. Dave Killoran, chief executive officer of PowerScore Test Preparation, said the overall experience of most takers was positive despite some technical issues.
“It’s hard to tell at what rate some of these problems occurred, and of course those affected were quite vocal about their problems,” Killoran said. “That said, I felt the test day went better than expected on most fronts, and we didn’t see any widespread catastrophic system failures. Assuming they improve things today given the learning curve, this could turn out quite successful for [the council.]”