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4 days to go: NLS exam to offer ltd pvt Rs 350 test centres in 14 cities • IDIA to also host 200+ • Exam now also Android, Mac, Linux, 512KBps

Relaxed technology requirements for NLAT though question marks remain
Relaxed technology requirements for NLAT though question marks remain

NLSIU Bangalore has relaxed the technical requirements of its National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) that is happening in four days, to include more operating systems, to require less internet bandwidth and, in seemingly rare cases, allow candidates to take the test in test centres in 14 cities.

Test centres for all? Or just for some?

On its FAQ, NLSIU has also announced the option of test centres, though it does not seem like an option that is intended to be taken up by many candidates.

Buried in the accessibility section of its FAQs, NLS has introduced a list of exam centres in 14 cities for candidates struggling with the technical requirements of the NLAT (see full notification below).

The cost would be Rs 350, with the centres hosted by private agency Testpan India Pvt Ltd, so NLSIU explicitly stated that “arrangement is a private agreement between Testpan and the candidate and NLSIU does not bear any liability in relation to the same”.

A mobile phone number of a contact, Yogendra Chauhan, at Testpan has been provided for candidates interested in taking advantage (or risking Covid-19) at a physical test centre.

Considering there are around 70,000 candidates, let’s hope Mr Chauhan has call waiting enabled on his phone.

Seriously though, we understand from an NLSIU source that candidates are also able to contact NLSIU directly to get more details on test centres.

We have also reached out to NLSIU for a figure on how many places are available at each test centre.

It is understood that NLSIU is intending to add more test centres.

IDIA to also set up test centres

Independently and separately from NLSIU’s announcement, the Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), meanwhile, is also working on providing physical locations and test centres for those who need them.

According to a press release from the NGO, which works to provide access to top law schools for underprivileged candidates, the less than 10 days of prior warning provided by the NLAT to candidates had caused particular problems:

The short notice given for the examination makes it especially difficult for students from underprivileged backgrounds and remote areas to make the arrangements for the examination. As the technical requirements would create difficulties for many students who want to write NLAT, IDIA Charitable Trust (IDIA) plans to set up as many physical centers as possible for conducting the examinations in order to help the students.

Current estimate of seats available at these centers that are proposed to set up by IDIA is 200+. These physical centers would allow the digital divide to be narrowed. The centers will be in places like Telangana, Karnataka, Mumbai, New Delhi etc.

Operating systems

The technical requirements for the remote proctoring software, which effectively takes over candidates computers to monitor running software and processes, have been relaxed from requiring Windows operating systems to also include:

  • “Mac OS 10.13 and above and Linux (ubuntu versions 18.04, 16.04, 15.04 only) systems” (though the latest and very widely adopted Ubuntu version 20.04 is conspicuous by its absence), and
  • Android version 6 and later.

While welcome to widen access to the exam, which has faced serious criticisms and question marks, several questions remain on that front:

Can you even effectively take an exam on a smaller Android touchscreen?

Have tests been conducted on whether candidates on smaller Android mobile phone screens or Android tablet screens have a significant disadvantage versus those taking the exam on a larger screen.

Has the software been tested sufficiently on the new operating systems?

Has the proctoring examination software been tested sufficiently on other operating systems to ensure stability and integrity of the exam?

Support for MacOS, Linux and Android was just added in the last few days: according NLSIU’s FAQ that had been updated yesterday, “the NLSIU team is working closely with the vendors engaged for the NLAT 2020... is accessible to candidates using” those operating systems”.

However, software usually requires significant testing before roll-out, particularly something as invasive as proctoring software that is intended to take over webcams, microphones, and monitor background processes running on a computer to ensure no screen sharing or covert web browsing is taking place.

Operating systems such as MacOS and Android are generally more locked down on that front than Windows, so without more information it is impossible to say that this will go off without a hitch.

Bandwidth reduction

According to the updated technical requirements, 1 MBps internet connection is not required anymore but merely 512KBps are sufficient, which should make access easier on spotty connections.

7. Minimum Internet Bandwidth: 512 Kbps minimum; the remote proctoring software streams exam data, including audio and video, directly to the cloud as you take the NLAT 2020. In order to allow the continuous transfer of exam data, the specified minimum connection speed must be maintained at all times.

That said, due to the rapid rollout, it’s not possible to say whether those with slower speeds will face disadvantages vis-a-vis those on high-speed broadband.

For one, pages and exam questions may still load 20 times as fast on a 10 MBps connection as on a 512KBps connection, potentially gifting several seconds or more to those in cities versus rural candidates with weaker connections.

And the difference may be exacerbated if live-streaming webcam footage at the same time, which may eat up much of a 512KBps connection.

On the flipside, depending on how the bandwidth reduction has been achieved, those on lower speed connections may be transmitting webcam footage at lower quality, which could impact the effectiveness of the automatic proctoring software and human invigilators.

NLS notification of 'accessibility' test centre options

According to NLS’ FAQ, regarding the new test centres:

I am unable to meet the technical requirements for the NLAT at my home. What do I do?

NLSIU is committed to ensuring the NLAT 2020 is conducted in as accessible a manner as possible. Candidates can now take the NLAT 2020 at centres across India managed by Testpan India Pvt. Ltd., (“Testpan”) a national centre-based testing company. Testpan is able to provide technical equipment and space for those students who are unable to meet the NLAT 2020 test requirements in 14 cities across 14 states in India. In the interests of equity, candidates can avail these facilities at a minimal cost of Rs. 350. These centres will also strictly observe all the necessary COVID health and safety protocols.

Please note that the NLSIU is not responsible for technical problems, internet outages or any other issues that may arise at Testpan centres. The arrangement is a private agreement between Testpan and the candidate and NLSIU does not bear any liability in relation to the same.

Please also note that each centre will have limited availability and a centre-based option is in the interests of making the NLAT 2020 accessible for students who are unable to meet the requirements for a home-based exam.

Can I get more details on the Centres?

For candidates who wish to explore this option, Testpan offers centre-based testing facilities in the following cities:

Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Bhubhaneshwar, Odisha

Bikaner, Rajasthan

Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Gaya, Bihar

Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh

Guwahati, Assam

Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Nashik, Maharashtra

Rohtak, Haryana

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

This list will be updated on an on-going basis to ensure even greater accessibility.

Any candidate who wishes to explore this option may contact Mr. Yogender Chauhan, Testpan India Pvt. Ltd., +91 7428461194

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