MacBook

MacBook Feature Barred on Bar Exams

If you’re a MacBook Pro user who is prepping for an upcoming bar exam, be aware that you may not be allowed to use a particular feature on the computer while taking the test.

More specifically, several states decided to require law students to disable the Touch Bar or not use computers that have the component. It’s currently part of the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models and replaces the top row of function keys normally found on a computer keyboard. Instead of functioning like typical keys, though, the Touch Bar is a light-up strip that has different capabilities depending on what a user is doing on the Mac.

Plus, the Touch Bar supports up to 10 simultaneous inputs, meaning an individual could rely on each one of their fingers to do a particular task. It’s also worth pointing out that the Touch Bar has a Touch ID sensor that helps a user turn on their MacBook, as well as authorize purchases.

Why Have Some States Prevented Test-Takers From Using the Touch Bar?

The Touch Bar’s potential uses go far beyond what people expect from function keys. And, although state bar associations haven’t explicitly said it, representatives seem to think people taking the bar exam and using the Touch Bar could rely on the feature to cheat. A particular capability called Quick Type could most realistically make that happen.

It suggests words as a person types, similarly to how predictive text works on most smartphone keyboards. The idea, then, is that if a person used that MacBook to study for their bar exams and had previously answered questions like some shown to them on the bar exam, the computer could help them fill in momentary lapses in knowledge. It would show contextual words to include in an answer.

How Could This Affect Law Students?

People go through an academically rigorous process before they ever get to the point of taking the bar exam. In most states, for example, students cannot sit their bar exams without first attending an American Bar Association(ABA)-accredited school. Choosing to go to one is the most prestigious route for a person’s law career, and it gives them the most geographic mobility.

But, if a person was unaware that they could not use the Touch Bar on their MacBook when taking the bar exam and tried to do it, they could get accused of dishonesty. Then, their law-practicing plans may get derailed, and they’d have to repair their reputations at an early stage. It’s important to realize that states have different opinions about whether or not people can use the Touch Bar while taking the bar exam, too.

The restriction began in 2017 to various degrees across the United States. For example, in North Carolina, students could use MacBook Pros with Touch Bars but had to disable the feature first. But the decision was stricter in New York. There, if people had MacBook Pros with Touch Bars, they couldn’t bring them to the exam.

Also, Colorado bar exam authorities decided to disallow the use of the Touch Bar after concluding it was not compatible with ExamSoft. That’s the software brand used to administer the exam.

Then, Virginia initially banned the Touch Bar because it didn’t have the chance to see how the Touch Bar affected Exam4, the software brand used there. Exam4 since rewrote its software so that people can now take the bar exam in the state by letting the software temporarily disable the Touch Bar.

ExamSoft also made an update that took care of disabling and re-enabling the Touch Bar on computers as required.

What Should You Do If You’re Taking the Bar Exam as a MacBook Pro User?

Although software updates seemed to negate the need to manually disable the Touch Bar on computers that have it, you don’t want any stressful surprises when showing up to take the bar exam.

The safest approach for students to take is to contact their state’s bar association and get the official word from them. That allows for making the proper preparations and not feeling rattled on the test day.

About Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is a legal and technology journalist with expertise in IT, cyber security, business efficiency and professional productivity. Her work has appeared in publications such as VentureBeat, VICE’s Motherboard, Gear Diary, Inc.com, The Huffington Post, CloudTweaks, and others. She is a senior writer for MakeUseOf and the owner and editor of the productivity and tech blog Productivity Bytes.

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