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Post Exam Rant

Don't worry: this isn't a post about how badly my Corporations exam went. (I mean, it didn't go well, and not only because Wings & Vodka would seem a paragon of preparedness compared to how I felt this morning. But I don't feel the need to complain about it, really.)

Rather, I want to say one more time--not that it matters--how much I hate ExamSoft, the cheating-prevention program used at Columbia to make sure that we future attorneys don't try to beat the curve by accessing the internet or anything. I am happy to go on record as saying that this software is the most ridiculous garbage I have ever inflicted on my hard drive--no, any hard drive, ever, including an old WWIV-based text games I half-finished in the early 90s. Dorothy Parker once reviewed a novel by saying it shoudn't be set aside lightly, but hurled with great force. Similarly, there is no feature of ExamSoft that justifies its existence, or suggests why every copy should not be wiped from any magnetic storage mediium, its source code run through some kind of randomizer, and the utterance of its very name proscribed on penalty of never being allowed to own a functioning operating system again. [1]

What's so wrong with this software?

  • It's pointless: We're supposed to be entering an honorable profession, and as my professional responsibility course points out, one of the purposes of a very expensive legal education is to provide a bond that ensures ethical behavior. Is there that much risk that someone's going to put $150K at jeopardy by accessing their electronic notes? (Besides, most of my law school exams have been open-note to begin with. Why not just let us use electronic outlines that are easily searchable?) We could avoid all these problems by saying, "You're on your honor, boys and girls. Cheat and we'll kick you out of here, and by the way, we're monitoring net usage during the exam."
  • It doesn't work: I have yet to attend a law school exam in which someone's computer didn't reject ExamSoft, forcing them either to start (and thus finish) the exam late, or handwrite the exam. This fantastically unfair to the person taking the exam--now stressing over whether their machine will hold up through the entire four hours, and quite often allows them to listen to students yakking about the exam on the way out of the room, while they're still working. One would think the certainty of the software failing would outweigh the utility gained by reducing the possibility of cheating.
  • It discriminates against non-Windows users: As I've mentioned, I have a stable of old laptops that I keep around specifically to give Macintosh (or potentially Linux) users around exam time. But these are old and clunky machines, and I'm sure Mac users would be happier with their one-buttoned clamshells and the little apple-shaped logo. (That said, if I saw the little bomb-symbol that Macintoshes used to throw up during a system crash on an exam, I might very well lose my mind.)
  • It's inconvenient: For those of us with widescreen monitors, exam-taking is an exercise in walleye-vision. In order to block your desktop, the ExamSoft window is forced to its maximum size, but there's no easy feature that allows you to resize the writing area. It always takes me a while to realize that just because my paragraph is only two lines long doesn't mean it's short: it takes a lot of words to cross a 15.4" screen.

Sadly, none of these problems look set to change any time soon. Thankfully, I only have one more in-class exam on Friday, and then I can once again uninstall this miserable excuse for a program.

[1]: Non-Windows users will inevitably insert some crack here about ExamSoft only running on Windows, and thus you didn't have a functioning operating system to begin with, natch. Guess we'll see which commentors take the time to read the footnotes...

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Comments

Humbug. Allowing computers already "discriminates" against those who take exams by hand or don't have a computer, etc., by exactly the same stretch. And merely that law students are already honor-bound doesn't suffice to disprove that the honorable student shouldn't have some protection from unfair competition from the occasional unscrupulous exception. But good rant.
If we're trusted not to cheat with outside information/collaboration on take home exams why aren't we trusted in class? As my corps prof last semester would say "no make sense".
Discriminates agasint handwriters or those who don't have computers? I'm not sure how your school does it, but at mine, using examsoft is an option, not a requirement. Furthermore, if you want to use it but can't for whatever reason (Mac user, don't have a lap top, etc), then they open up the computer labs for exam access only. Yeah, it takes some serious planning on behalf of the administration, but it levels the playing field, so that EVERYONE has access to the program.
Discriminates agasint handwriters or those who don't have computers? I'm not sure how your school does it, but at mine, using examsoft is an option, not a requirement. Furthermore, if you want to use it but can't for whatever reason (Mac user, don't have a lap top, etc), then they open up the computer labs for exam access only. Yeah, it takes some serious planning on behalf of the administration, but it levels the playing field, so that EVERYONE has access to the program.
Discriminates agasint handwriters or those who don't have computers? I'm not sure how your school does it, but at mine, using examsoft is an option, not a requirement. Furthermore, if you want to use it but can't for whatever reason (Mac user, don't have a lap top, etc), then they open up the computer labs for exam access only. Yeah, it takes some serious planning on behalf of the administration, but it levels the playing field, so that EVERYONE has access to the program.
Um, precisely my point. It doesn't "discriminate" because it's simply making an offering that not everyone can take advantage of. Er, of which advantage not everyone may take? Something. But if that's not discrimination (and it isn't) then neither is offering it to the owners of only some computers.
After I installed ExamSoft on my laptop it started running slowly. If I uninstall it now will that create problems for next semester? I knew I should have taken some comp sci classes...
I took my exams using ExamSoft. The school I attend has an anonymous grading policy. I was accommodated for my learning disabilites and the extra amount of time I received was disclosed on each of my final exams (visible to all of my professors). Did this happen to anyone else?
while taking a bar certification exam in fla Ichose to use examSoft, big mistake. Turned out some bozo did not plug the electric in correctly, thus I worked on while knowing my battery would crash, no eon could figure out why my "strip" was not hot. Thus I rudely plugged into wall, proving it was not my converter, and finished in panic. 100 felony jury trials, and this thing flustered me more. Next trip I hand wroye, with broken hand!

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