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Is video stored? • Why leak not big deal • NLS confirms / denies, PDF of NLAT Qs goes viral during exam • HC writ to join SC case [NLAT LIVEBLOG]

As controversial National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) re-takes for candidates who had issues will be underway from noon today (14 September), the Jharkhand high court petition challenging the exam has been submitted to the Supreme Court with an intervention application, to join the matter that is set to be heard on Wednesday, 16 September.

According to one of the petitioners’ lawyers in the case:

The 5 students whose plea was dismissed by the Hon’ble JHC moves SC against NLSIU, Bangalore for relief. The petition has been by advocates Shubham Gautam, Baibhaw Gahlaut through the chambers of Kush Chaturvedi, AOR [including] Aditya Shekhar, Adv., Priyashree Sharma, Adv.

All lawyers were acting pro bono on the case, said Gautam, including the AOR.

Read the full special leave petition (SLP) here.

Retakes galore

We are currently working on the definitive analysis of the retakes. Keep your eyes peeled, we’ll link to it in the liveblog.

In the meantime, if you are sitting the retakes and have any issues (or even if not), please let us and other readers know in the comments below.

12:43: We have now published a more in-depth analysis of what NLS' decision to hold a re-take today means and why it's likely to upset a lot of candidates.

Paper leaked out during exam

Exam paper out early
Exam paper out early

13:22: At least as early as 12:53pm, according to screenshots from messaging groups we have seen, and with the retake of the exam still officially slated to be scheduled until 1:15pm, PDF copies of the retake exam paper were circulating on various online channels.

We have confirmed that this was indeed the content of the exam from a copy we had received by 12:57pm from a source.

Download the PDF of the leaked paper here.

The above PDF has gone massively viral on WhatsApp and Telegram groups and we have received several dozen copies of the paper so far.

While would not so much be a leak of the paper before the exam, it demonstrates at least one thing: the security measures to prevent candidates taking screenshots of the exam or otherwise managing to copy the content of the questions is clearly weak, to non-existent.

That it is possible and indeed happened is not surprising.

There are many ways the paper could have been shared and transcribed via screen capturing software and running each screen through optical character recognition.

Or if you managed to open up the ‘inspect source’ sidebar on your browser (which the tool makes harder but is pretty easy when you know how), you can literally copy entire questions into your clipboard (and there are apps that automatically save whatever you copy into a document).

Even worse, on Saturday, someone who took the test and wanted to show the security weaknesses, purported being able to see the entire exam paper at once with a few clicks in the page inspector, according to this YouTube video, while also de-activating the full-screen protections in the test so they could be on a different screen to the browser.

(Note: we have not able to confirm whether this would work in a live setting of the final exam, although it seems possible).

The video has been viewed more than 5,000 times so it’s possible someone (or more than one person) replicated the trick today.

13:51: Someone messaged us with the following view regarding the leak:

The question paper was definitely leaked by 12.53 on telegram groups. Some people are arguing that this was after the test was over so it does not matter.

The reporting time was 12.00. Exam was to start at 12.30. It is a 45 min exam so should finish by 1.15

If the paper is circulating at 1253 pm, the exam is STILL on. Plus, many people would have taken time for verification & logging in and so their exam would start at anytime between 13.30 & 1.15 pm (going by past experience when it took a few minutes to 45 minutes to log in).

Imagine the delight if you had the paper with you at 1253 and casually looked at it or got someone to solve it for you while you waited PATIENTLY to log in.

The Hindu reports glitches in logging in, again

According to The Hindu:

A few students The Hindu spoke to mentioned that they were unable to appear for the re-test on Monday as well. “I logged in at noon and the photo verification process took half-an-hour and later I got a message stating that they are unable to set up my audio proctoring. I didn’t attempt a single question on September 12 nor was I able to attempt a single question even now. I am disappointed that the authorities are treating our future so casually. I am mentally exhausted and have lost one week’s preparation for the Common Law Admission Test that is scheduled on September 28,” she said.

NLS press release


14:44: NLS has issued a press release (see above).

The release accepts that “some candidates have copied the questions and circulated this on some messaging apps/emails after logging in”.

“While this is a malpractice under the NLAT proctoring guidelines, it does not affect the integrity of the exam as questions were already available to all candidates after login,” the release added.

Technically this is correct, and even candidates who started slightly late and began having access to the paper by 12:53 when it first appeared, likely wouldn’t have been able extract a huge advantage out of it without already having had cheating systems in place (such as having messengers open and being in touch with someone else helping them).

However, one of the features of the exam was also that every candidates could only access questions in chronological order and could not return to earlier questions. A candidate who might have had access to the paper while in the exam (and plenty of candidates appear to have had access to mobile phones, judging from the chatter on Telegram and WhatsApp groups), could conceivably have skimmed ahead to other sections.

Notably, this is the first time NLS has confirmed that “malpractice” has taken place.

NLS again pointed to its “technology platform” as the solution, noting that it “tracks and compares every candidate’s answer behaviour patterns and hence, any unusual candidate answer behaviour will be identified and result in disqualification”.

It is fair to question this technological magic sauce, which is often peddled by software companies as being able to do what increasingly looks impossible.

Sure, software could easily detect a candidate who scores close to 100% and doesn’t spend sufficient time on each question or doesn’t appear to be reading the questions well enough before giving an answer.

But the more fundamental problem is this: there still seems little way to stop a determined cheater, using the flaws in the exam as we had described here,, as long as they remain cool as a cucumber and are a moderately talented actor (or a well-practised cheater), and NLS has not been able to address our concerns in that article.

This leak indeed proves what we had reported: that it is not possible to lock down an online home-proctored exam completely.

It also proves that some candidates are indeed willing to not play by the rules, which should not be a surprise if you’re looking at 25,000 candidates looking to score one of 100-odd undergraduate seats in the country’s most famous law school.

“We will continue to investigate this matter with the help of our technical partners and issue further updates if necessary,” added the release. “We reassure candidates and their parents that we will be transparent and ensure examination integrity at all times.”

15:17: Another candidate writes:

The latest Press release by NLSIU is an admission that the paper was leaked. They say it doesn’t matter because people were already logged in or appearing for the exam. Imagine a scenario where a coaching centre or teacher gets the paper at 12.53 pm, solves it, and sends it on the phone/ mail to his student(s). They may have already started the paper (were budgeting 11 minutes per passage so would have done 1 or 2) passages. They STILL get answers for the rest 2 passages.

As for claims of detecting malpractices, let’s wait and watch. However, it is unlikely to differentiate between a student trying to solve something on a sheet of paper (allowed) and looking at his phone or multiple other ways that the tech- geniuses have shown us.

Why the leaked paper is not a big deal

While we would partially agree with this, in theory, the leak of the paper is dramatic and highly visible but would would argue it’s actually not that big a deal in and of itself.

Why, you might ask? Because to take advantage of the leaked exam paper, you need to have been cheating already, in order to get sent the leaked paper while you were in the exam.

Once you have a reliable way of getting information to you while in an exam, you are already cheating.

At that point, all it would have required to really cheat effectively (and not rely on some random person’s leak 20 minutes into the exam), would have been to:

1. Screenshare your exam attempt, as we he access to on Saturday your exam paper live to another person (or via an off-screen camera, do a video recording, of which numerous examples are out on YouTube) .

2. Get someone else watching your livestream to figure out and tell you the answers.

3. As a cherry on top, get someone else to take the entire paper at the same time as you, download the questions fast (as evidence in the leak) and share them with your helper in the other room, so they can work ahead.

4. Make sure you act the part and not suspiciously, such as by answering questions abnormally (too fast, too well, too slowly at first, and faster later, etc).

Again, none of this is rocket science. If we, you and others can figure out and understand and come up with such techniques, so can some more unscrupulous operators who’ve made it their life’s work to help kids crack exams such as these.

At that point, it is not possible to pretend that such techniques don’t exist and that they would be caught by some magic software later (and even that seems very unlikely).

NLS press release: A second completion

19:35: NLS has claimed a second completion of the NLAT after today’s retakes.

We have done a separate, fuller story.

The biggest takeaway: NLSIU is not willing to disclose any figures on how many sat the re-takes today, though it admitted that nearly everyone who complained (even about non-fatal issues) got another bite at the cherry (as we had predicted earlier today).

Does the NLAT even capture video data for later analysis?

21:08: Someone has messaged us (anonymously) with the following account, which is hard for us to corroborate but we have been wondering about:

I’m confident that Cocubes does not have the full length webcam footage of the rankers in lossless quality and audio. I’m confident that they won’t make the footage public if asked, they won’t even be able to produce the footage in the court, if asked.

I can tell this because I carefully observed the network stats of the testing portal.

In the first 30 mins (verification window) the testing portal transmitted a total of 150KB Data, that is understandable but even after the test started the portal wasn’t sending 1/3rd of required minimum data back to the server. I involved some of my friends and re-confirmed this observation in today’s test.

Sadly, recording any evidence didn’t come to my mind so it’s understandable to me that this report lacks credibility but I still decided to report this.

Thanks for sharing, we have asked NLS for comment on this. If the person reading this could reach out to us with their contact details, we’d love to chat to them further, in confidence (click here to Contact Us).

Reiterating, we have no evidence whether this is accurate as of now.

However, considering the number of unanswered questions about more precise technical capacities of the system, plus the fact that required bandwidth of the exam was reduced from 1MBps to 512KBps, do not make it an inconceivable account.

And if anyone else had any insights or information about this please leave a comment below or message us directly.

We will update this blog when we get further updates.

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