•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences

LSAT-India law entrance exam to go entirely online with AI + human proctors via webcam, postponed to 14 June [UPDATE-1]

And with an online LSAT postponed to 14 June, can the CLAT still hit its offline date of 21 June?

Can a competitive law entrance exam for thousands be effectively held online?
Can a competitive law entrance exam for thousands be effectively held online?

The LSAT-India exam, which is the official admissions test to 10 Indian law schools, will be held entirely online this year, marking a first for Indian law school admissions.

The test, which was set up by the US-based Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and is perhaps most well-known for having been exclusively used by JGLS Sonepat since its founding - has been postponed from the already-once-postponed date of 7 June for an offline exam, to 14 June for the 100% online test.

The end of disruptions caused by Covid is not clearly in sight, so from that perspective the move to online makes sense.

But it’s also not without its risks.

Yusuf Abdul-Kareem, the US-based vice president of emerging markets and business intelligence at LSAC, had told us in late March 2020, before the first postponement of both the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and the LSAT-India, that the body was looking at “contingency plans”, which “in this particular case means, we would postpone the exam and move it to a different date, or explore a different mode of delivery”.

Both contingencies have now clearly kicked in.

Safety first?

According to the announcement by LSAC, the “move from a paper and pencil test to an online administration will enable candidates to take the test from the safety and convenience of their homes or a location of their choice, and continue their goal of pursuing legal education despite necessary public health restrictions on travel and public gathering”.

Of course, one of the major difficulties with online exams is how one can guarantee the sanctity of a competitive exam that can very much be a zero-sum game; particularly, how can you ideally eliminate cheating despite students being able to sit the exams at home?

According to LSAC’s statement:

LSAC will implement a rigorous data forensics programme to ensure the integrity of the remotely proctored test. The remotely proctored online LSAT—India will require candidates to complete a virtual check-in process, which includes enhanced identification and authentication procedures.

After successful identity validation, the candidate will be approved to take the test using a secured browser. Every candidate’s test will be proctored remotely using AI-assisted technology and the candidate’s entire examination will be recorded via the computer’s web camera.

If misconduct of any kind is detected, then the exam will be invalidated.

Abdul-Kareem told us in March that so-called remote proctoring of exams - usually done with a human invigilator watching the candidate sitting the online exam via webcam - had become relatively commonplace in the US, and was often administered by proctoring software and solutions.

Multinational professional testing and exam giant Pearson Vue, which has been administering the LSAT-India, was one such company, and it too will be responsible for the proctoring solution.

“By and large the way it works,” he said, “is you have a proctor, who is basically monitoring the person who is sitting for the exam, through their camera.”

“It’s definitely a challenge,” he had said, but added: “I would say, given the circumstances we are in right now, every testing organisation is exploring remote proctoring.”

However, Abdul-Kareem also said that the system to be used for the upcoming online LSAT-India, would consist of an artificial intelligence (AI) in the “first layer”, with a human being responsible only afterwards for reviewing “suspicious activity”.

It’s impossible to say whether such a system will be 100% foolproof, but in the circumstances it may be the best one can get.

Update 12:38: Prof Raj Kumar, JGU founding vice chancellor (VC) and JGLS dean, said when asked about the risk of cheating or otherwise gaming online proctoring methods: “Both LSAC and Pearson Vue are reputed organisations in the world and they are experts in this. And they are i’m sure conscious of the need to ensuring transparency and integrity in the examination process.”

“In India it might sound very novelty,” he added, “but people have done this all over the world. For all the online courses that happen around the world, there are actually millions of students from the top universities that do that [remote proctoring examinations].”

But won’t the really determined find a way to beat the system? “I believe it’s too early to pass judgement, because physical examinations have their own challenges too,” responded Kumar. “And no one can say that in physical examinations - [for example, in a] multiple choice model - the vulnerability is much less than in a remote proctoring model.”

Access both physical and social

As with any online exams there will also be questions surrounding access for those who may not have stable internet connections, electricity supply or possibly not even available for us computers or laptops with webcams or potentially required specs (though in Covid-19 times, access will prove to be an issue also for physical exams, no doubt).

Update 12:38: Regarding potential issues of access, Kumar said: “The good news is that today is 8th of May: we have nearly 40 days for LSAC, Pearson Vue and the other partner schools, particularly Jindal, to look into some of these issues.

“That is, how will it happen, how do we make it more accessible, how do we ensure integrity of the process, how do we create possibilities? All those things will be considered in the next 40 days.”

Last year, the LSAT-India has had its “biggest year” with 8,300 test takers, said Abdul-Kareem. In March he had said that LSAC was aiming to hit 10,000 this year, though he admitted that with “Coronavirus being what it is - we are finding it somewhat challenging”.

This year, besides JGLS taking 600 students via LSAT-India, the so-called LSAC Global Law Alliance Members also include the comparatively smaller schools of law from Jagral Lakecity University (JLU), IFIM, Vijaybhoomi, SVKM’s NMIMS, Hindustan Institute of Technology and Law, MIT-World Peace University Pune and UPES, in addition three others that also accept LSAT-India scores.

Each of the above will at least in part be accepting LSAT-India scores, but some might also sometimes be accepting scores of other competitive exams for its admissions.

What of CLAT?

LSAT’s move to online raises questions for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), which is many times larger than the LSAT-India and is currently scheduled for 21 June after its second postponement.

Even holding the CLAT offline in late June, just over a month away, may eventually prove to be a struggle, considering that an definitive end to lockdowns all over the country is not clearly in sight right now.

Update 12:38: Kumar commented: “It is unlikely that a physical entrance examination is possible for the next several months. And hence online AI-enabled remote proctored exam will be the only option available for law aspirants in the country.”

“And I will even say, this model deserves serious consideration for both CLAT and AILET [NLU Delhi’s separate admissions test],” he added.

However, despite the CLAT just about becoming a bit more consistently managed year-on-year by a permanent CLAT consortium of NLUs, it’s not clear whether those national law university (NLU) vice chancellors (VCs) that make up the consortium would have the appetite for experimenting online testing solutions or whether an easier solution would be to potentially continue delaying the CLAT until Covid has more definitely receded.

One issue is, that no one really knows how long that will be right now.

Update 12:38: “Necessity is the mother of invention,” noted Kumar. “Today we are in a situation where the uncertainty imposed on us by Covid-19 has made an examination of the kind we are all used to - where people are sitting next to each other, with or without masks - is going to create a greater threat to safety and well-being.”

He predicted that the current stage we had reached in Covid-9 meant that, in his opinion “a physical examination” was “impossible”. “At least I am not able to believe that not possible for several months,” he said, though the US and several parts of the world were even seeing such a timescale as conservative. “And that’s one of the reasons [the government’s National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test] NEET was postponed to end of July.

“But I would be skeptical of even that date.”

Full disclosure: LSAT-India has previously been an advertiser on Legally India; JGLS Sonepat has previously and is presently an advertiser on Legally India.

Click to show 26 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.