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Exam proctoring: a law student’s experience

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As law schools shift exams online in the wake of the coronavirus, one aspiring lawyer reveals her first encounter was ‘mostly positive’

When lockdown measures were introduced, I assumed everything would be back to normal by the exam period. Unfortunately, this was clearly positive thinking and I have now undertaken two exams remotely in the last month as part of my Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Although the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) allowed for my elective of private acquisitions to be sat under a 24-hour period without supervision, my solicitors accounts exam was completed using a special proctoring software, which meant that I couldn’t use any of my computer’s normal functions and had to complete the exam under normal (as normal as possible) exam conditions.

We were told we would be using this online proctoring system at the end of March. The exam took place in the second week of June, so I think this was more than enough time to get used to the idea. My university kept us in the loop with updates on the situation and discussions they were having with the regulator regarding remote exams.

We were given guidance and also a mock exam so that we could test the software before the real thing. To complete the exam it was necessary to have a computer, reliable internet connection, microphone and webcam. I thankfully had all of these but I’m sure less fortunate students may have struggled. I’d hope the university would have equipped students with the necessary equipment where needed.

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We were told that the software would record the duration of the examination and after the exam the recordings would be reviewed for any academic integrity issues.

My experience was mostly positive, though a bit strange and daunting as I had never sat an exam in that way before. The main problem I encountered was that as I was writing out my calculations on paper, I naturally bent my head down. This meant that I left the ‘webcam zone’ and this flagged on the system. In order to carry on with the exam I had to re-align myself with the ‘webcam zone’, which was obviously intended to prevent students looking at prohibited materials during the exam but proved to be quite awkward to navigate.

I kept as upright as possible for the rest of the exam but it still kept flagging on the system, though by the end I managed to work out an acceptable posture — not a skill I’ve ever had to champion for an exam before.

My university’s approach has been transparent and proactive. I felt prepared to combat the supervised online exam despite it being alien to all of us. Now that I have sat one exam in this format, I feel that if I had to sit another, it will be a much smoother and easier experience, though not one that I would volunteer for.

Jane Smith (pseudonym) is an LPC student.

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