Law in the Internet Society
So I thought this was one of the more appropriate forums for bringing up one of the major issues I have had with CLS throughout my first year and a half here: SoftTest? . Personally, I think that this program is absolutely ridiculous. I understand that CLS does not want us to be cheating during exams, but that is what an honor code is for. Why is it that we are forced to use what is, to be perfectly honest, a horrible program that routinely seems to screw up students' computers (and which for some 3L students who might have wanted to buy a new Mac before law school, forced them to buy a PC) in order to keep us honest during our in class exams? Moreover, I feel that the use of SoftTest? actually punishes students who have taken good notes throughout the term. The reason for this is simple. If you have taken solid notes through an entire term in a 3 or 4 credit class and want to use them during an in-class exam you have to print out what is likely to be around 100 pages and then sift through them during an exam where you don't have much time. However, during an 8 hour take home in which you are allowed to use your notes you can simply search through them on your computer using the "Find" function. How does this make any sense? It seems ridiculous that SoftTest? makes the same exam artificially harder for people taking it in class than people taking it at home (this is especially true for 1L exams where different sections of torts, contracts, etc have different exams, some of which are take homes and some of which are in class). Indeed, it seems to me that the use of SoftTest? for in class exams might actually have a serious and substantive effect on student grades, and I cannot fathom that this is what the CLS administration wanted to happen.

So my question is what do people think about trying to get CLS to stop using SoftTest? ? Or what if professors giving in-class exams could choose whether they wanted to require their students to use SoftTest? or not. I think that this would be a great system because eventually as soon as a few professors started offering in-class exams with no SoftTest? it would put pressure on the other profs to follow suit. If professors kept using it under those circumstances I can imagine students beginning to feel like their professors don't trust them, which would probably in turn lead to more negative reviews in the course review guide, and fewer people taking the classes. I believe that that would be an interesting test to gauge whether other people feel the same way that I do on this subject.

Finally, I was wondering whether people in this class had any suggestions for how SoftTest? might be replaced or re-vamped to make it a better system. What if it shut down your internet, allowed you to still look through your outline and notes on your computer, but also prevented copying and pasting from one document to another. I don't know if this could be done, but it certainly seems to me that it would make SoftTest? a far more palatable program.

Sorry for the rant in the midst of finals, but I'm anxious to hear what others have to say.

-- AlexLawrence - 16 Dec 2008

I disagree with how you characterize what is taking good notes. I would characterize what you are calling "good notes" as good transcription. I don't think copying down every word is something that should be encouraged - its pretty easy to turn off your brain and type everything you hear, but it's harder to boil down and synthesize class discussion. Also, i don't share your fear about comparing grades between classes with take-home vs. in-class tests. This should all be taken care of with the curve, no? I know that some law schools allow taking tests the way you are advocating (ie Northwestern), but again the curve should take care of comparison across law schools. Some kids may have natural advantage of disadvantage depending on the type of test being given and their note taking style, but with adequate notice beforehand, they should be able to adjust.

No matter what type of test you will give, be it take-home, in class, open book, multiple choice, some segment of the student population will receive a natural advantage based on their study habits. I don’t think one type of test is inherently better or worse than another, although I dislike the lack of partial credit in multiple choice tests. That being said, I agree with you that life would be a lot easier during exam time if we could all use ctrl-F. This entire discussion is someone moot, considering the arbitrariness with which most law professors hand out grades.

-- AdamCohen - 16 Dec 2008

I agree that the curve probably should take care of the differences in test conditions, etc. To be perfectly honest my biggest issue with ExamSoft is that it makes me feel like the Law School simply doesn't trust us, which is annoying. The idea that all of the students here who have all worked so hard to get here are not capable of taking a test without the restrictions imposed by SoftTest? seems a little absurd at a law school that is supposed to be one of the best in the country if not the world. However, I also recognize that my sentiments may not be entirely reasonable and that what I perceive to be an insult may not be taken that way by the majority of the student body. Really, I just think SoftTest? is a pretty good example of what is wrong in law school. Our exams aren't preparing us in any way for what we are going to be doing as lawyers. As for multiple choice exams they are truly the bane of my existence here at CLS. Part of the reason for this is that in my experience they seem to be a way for profs to get around having to write new questions each year or read and grade all essay exams (in every instance where I have had multiple choice exams the prof has refused to deliver to the class a full practice exam of multiple choice questions, claiming that it is simply too hard to write new ones which I think is an absurd argument). What frankly bothers me most though is the lack of substantive commentary and feedback we are given after exams. I think of course that this is linked to the aritrariness with which most law professors hand out grades, becuase in most cases, we never get to see their comments on the tests we take. The problem though is that I do not see this changing any time soon

-- AlexLawrence - 16 Dec 2008

While it is true that different people are naturally more comfortable with different styles of examination, it's also true that real world lawyers usually get the benefit of the search function, even when they must work under pressure.

Professors have the option of giving 3.5 or 4.5 hour takehome exams instead of 3 or 4 hour in class ones if they want to allow students to search through their notes. Encourage them to use it.

Take-home exams have the added benefit of allowing those who prefer running open-source operating systems to stay Windows-free.

-- AndreiVoinigescu - 17 Dec 2008

SoftTest is a small problem. Getting no feedback is a bigger problem. Further still, getting no feedback during the course - when there is still time to ask questions and get a better handle on the material and change one's approach to a subject - is the biggest problem of all. But, this goes to the heart of what seems to be the traditional lecture class, which isn't at all driven by giving student the tools to analyze real-world problems. The real issue is that no exam I have taken so far is really graded based on the quality of the advice given to a potential client.

-- KateVershov - 17 Dec 2008

The story (I have neither first-hand knowledge nor a citation) is that the student senate torpedoed the most recent attempt to abandon exam software.

Some previous students have hand-written their exams rather than install Windows. The curve does not take care of that, although professorial lenience might (to a point -- my handwriting does not qualify for clemency).

-- DanielHarris - 17 Dec 2008



Webs Webs

r6 - 17 Dec 2008 - 06:30:15 - DanielHarris
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM