The Board of Law Examiners of the State of North Carolina has issued a notice to Bar exam applicants, informing anyone using Apple’s new MacBook Pro that the device’s new Touch Bar hardware will have to be disabled for the exam. Many other states have recently banned use of the machine for taking the test outright.
This is a notice for all applicants who will be using their laptop at the February 2017 North Carolina Bar Examination. If you are planning to use the newest version of the Mac Book Pro with Touch Bar, you will be required to disable the Touch Bar feature prior to entry into the Bar Examination Site.
The notice continues by offering instructions on how to disable the Touch Bar, which actually just instructs users on how to enable the hardware’s Expanded Control Strip setting. This disables the contextual nature of the Touch Bar and instead makes it only show a static set of standard system functions like media controls.
Brian Szontagh, the staff member at the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners that issued the notice, told us in an email that “applicants are required to disable the Touch Bar because it can compromise Examination integrity and security.”
In a separate statement, another representative told us the Touch Bar “gives an unfair advantage” to students:
We are requiring the MacBook Pro Touch Bar feature to be disabled, because it gives an unfair advantage to any student using it during the exam. We feel it is unfair to tell applicants they are not allowed to use their Mac Book Pro so close to the exam, and Examsoft has verified that if this feature is disabled, then Examsoft will run the same for all applicants.
The precaution is due to security concerns regarding cheating as the new Touch Bar can be used to contextually display content depending on the user’s action.
ExamSoft, a software company that provides testing software to the Board of Law Examiners will be ensuring that applicants have the Touch Bar disabled manually. Normally, the company uses its software dubbed SofTest to block access to internet, files and apps that might be used for cheating. But it appears the Touch Bar requires the extra precaution at least for now until software used for blocking potential sources of cheating is updated to disable possibilities with the Touch Bar.
It is possible for those with know how to code custom apps or use others that in theory could be used to cheat, so it’s something for other institutions administering tests in a bring-your-device environment to think about.