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The NLAT D-Day live blog: All that happened today [MSM begins reports • Cheating bombshell • Flood of tech probs with only 115 helpline workers • ENDED]

Welcome to our live chronicle of the exclusive NLS entrance test (subject to what the SC will say on Tuesday

Full steam ahead on the NLAT exam D-Day today, on which we will answer and document all and any questions that come up
Full steam ahead on the NLAT exam D-Day today, on which we will answer and document all and any questions that come up

Yes, only eight days after the exam was announced on 3 September, following three writ petitions and a partial stay on results in the Supreme Court yesterday, plus a whole lot of last minute tweaks and some technology Snafus, the National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) of NLSIU Bangalore is actually happening.

Following on from our wildly popular liveblog of the NLAT proceedings for the last two days, welcome to our NLAT live blog covering the proceedings for the Big Day, Saturday 12 September.

The first exam slot is to start at 12:30, the second slot is at 2:15pm and the last one at 4:00pm. Candidates are expected to be available and ready, 30 minutes before each, respectively.

115 technical support staff to be available on helplines

11:36: To kick off, some updates that were received late yesterday from NLS and that we included in our scoop about the simulated mock test, which had been billed as a “Simulation Test of the exact NLAT examination process” but turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and a bad omen for today.

However, according to a statement received from NLSIU late last night, it has sort of half-acknowledged that there were actual issues, though it has not really explained the cause or why this won’t happen again today in the actual test:

The simulation test was not a mandatory test. All students were given a chance to attend at least one simulation test. In the case of some students where they received late emails about their simulation test, they were given another chance to take the simulation test at 8 pm on Friday.

The helpline was active throughout the day on Friday. However, to assure students who may have concerns about accessing the helpline, staff of more than 115 will be available to man the helplines for technical assistance on Saturday when the NLAT 2020 will be conducted.

With regard to facial recognition issues, candidates have to comply with the instructions given to them in the candidate guide regarding the format of the ID card to be produced during the test.

In July we did an interview with the LSAT-India head Yusuf Abdul-Kareem, after they had just conducted their entrance test for 5,500.

When we asked him for any “potential advice or lessons learned for the CLAT and the AILET”, which were at that point to be held in July (with NLU Delhi’s AILET having briefly gone the home-proctored route before abandoning it), his second point was:

“The other advice I would give, is to make sure you have a robust customer service and troubleshooting support line and support system.”

While at the time he had declined to confirm exactly how many support staff they had on hand, let’s do some quick maths.

NLS has 27,500 candidates in three slots, working out to around 9,000 per slot. The LSAT had around 500 candidates per slot.

At 115 NLAT tech support workers, that works out to 78 students per staffer, per session.

If LSAT-India had used such a 1:78 ratio of helpline staff to candidate, it would have meant they would have had only six support staff available for each batch of 500, which would seem like a really low number if Abdul-Kareem strongly advised for “robust customer service and troubleshooting support line systems”.

By the accounts of some CLAT tutors we have spoken to, around 10 to 20% of candidates were not able to take the NLAT simulation at all yesterday due to technical issues, and “60 percent had at least some sort of problem, delay or test to at all conducted”.

If today’s actual exam will be as glitchy as the simulation, a 1:78 ratio of support staff is definitely not going to cut it, so here’s to hoping that most of those issues have been ironed out for today.

NLS 'confident' no cheaters would make it

11:54: As part oft our analysis of the real risk of cheating on the NLAT, we had asked the administration the following question: “Can you 100% guarantee that cheating will be impossible in the NLAT without getting caught?”

Yesterday, NLS released a statement saying it remained confident in its technology and process for weeding out foul play:

We have adopted robust technological measures and proctoring processes to maintain the integrity of the examination. We urge all candidates to take no risks with the proctoring and technological restrictions in place for the examination. Our integrity measures will come into full effect during and after the examination process as we review a comprehensive electronic record of the examination. While we cannot prevent a student’s attempt to circumvent these integrity measures, any evidence of examination malpractice will be taken extremely seriously and will result in disqualification.

We reassure all candidates appearing for NLAT 2020 to participate in the examination with full confidence. We are confident that no candidate who engages in examination malpractice will secure admission to the University.

Unless you’re trying to hide a live studio audience in your room, the proctor-ordered 360 sweep of the webcam is probably fairly easy to defeat, judging by what people got up to during yesterday's simulation.

However, as we had also pointed out in our article on cheating, the main saving grace of NLS might be that it only needs to confirm that the merit list top 80 candidates (or 120, petition pending) did not cheat, after the event.

That reduces the burden considerably but forensically, the only evidence they will have after the exam is over is potentially grainy 640x480 webcam footage and a potentially bad audio recording, both streamed over 512KBps (though we have not confirmed if those are actually being stored on servers for later examination, one would assume any half-way competent proctoring system to do so).

On top of that, they might have access to all keystrokes and possibly mouse movements of a candidate.

Let’s hope it’s enough.

FAQ updates today

There are several updates to the official NLSIU FAQs today, which are by now impossible to identify unless you run the FAQs through a text comparison engine (also known as a ‘redline’ in corporate lawyer speak) against previous versions.

Luckily, we have done that for you, so you don’t have to.

Some mobile phone help desk numbers have been removed.

12:10: Three helpdesk mobile phone numbers communicated previously have been removed from the site. Since there are now 115 staffers on hand (see above), that makes sense, since those three lines would have been jammed.

Instead the instructions now are:

If the helpdesk number is busy, candidates can call the technical assistance number communicated to them during the verification process and in case of internet failure. You may login to the admissions.nls.ac.in portal to access this technical assistance number.

The main helpdesk number is 080-471-89145, but again, that may be jammed so it may be safest to stick to their advice and use the number mentioned during verification.

So good advice would be to note down that number and get it into your phone, just in case you encounter problems so you don’t have to hunt for it.

Also slightly unclear: how are you going to access the admissions portal if you have “internet failure”?

'Safe Assessment Browser (SAB) Tool' is no longer required

12:20: This was updated earlier yesterday, but as we had predicted and asked NLS, the software that was initially supposed to be downloaded by candidates and that burrows deep into your computer to make sure you’re not running screen recorders, etc, is not required anymore.

The FAQ asks: “I have not received any link to download Safe Assessment Browser (SAB) Tool and can’t find any such software on the internet”.

The answer: “SAB is no longer required for the exam. Please read the updated guidelines on technical/system requirements here.”

Such software, which almost operates at the level of anti-virus software, is a core component of technical anti-cheating measures during proctored exams.

If it has been removed, presumably after the exam was opened up to operating systems other than Windows, it leaves the technological proctoring up to your web browser, which has fairly limited access to a candidates’ underlying computer.

So far, so better (than yesterday) but not perfect

12:26: With four minutes to go until the first exam at 12:30, we have received at least two accounts of candidates who were unable to log in or whose ID card had not yet been verified.

While not wonderful news, anecdotally, that is far fewer than yesterday’s simulation (which is not surprising, since a huge number of candidates received their verification email after the start time of the exam).

12:51: One CLAT coach, who has over 10 candidates appearing for the NLAT said that around a quarter of them were not able to start at the scheduled time of 12:30. One of those candidates has still not been able to begin the exam.

13:08: One candidates messaged us, noting: “Unable to login since 1 hour. Even the technical team has no solution. They are of no help.”

13:09: As we had predicted earlier, the helpline numbers may be overwhelmed. According to one candidate, “I called at their given helpline number they are declining my call.” One candidate shared a screenshot where they called the helpline number around half a dozen times, in regular intervals every minute. Each of the calls showed it had been “cancelled” without having connected.

If you are facing any issues with the exam today, please leave a comment below or message us in confidence here via a variety of channels: Contact Us.

Mock test for CLAT for IDIA'ites

14:21: Today IDIA Law Managing Trustee tweeted “IDIA Trainees will be writing NLAT today as a Mock Test for CLAT 2020. There is no way, one can ask them to take NLAT seriously and get stressed out for not receiving emails, passwords, simulation tests, Test centres etc. Best of luck @IDIALaw team!"

Shishira Rudrappa, the managing trustee of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), tweeted today:

IDIA Trainees will be writing NLAT today as a Mock Test for CLAT 2020.

There is no way, one can ask them to take NLAT seriously and get stressed out for not receiving emails, passwords, simulation tests, Test centres etc.

Best of luck @IDIALaw team!

— Shishira (@shishirar) Sat, 12 Sep 2020, 09:17

Issues with exam continue flooding in

14:29: More accounts from students taking the exam who have not been able to log in.

Today for Nlat examination I was alloted the first batch.

I couldn’t get verified I tried with both the password sent to me via mail and as well as on the official website but couldn’t get through.

I called them so many times and they couldn’t help me too.

They are saying that the same problem have occurred with many student and now they can’t help it.

We have received dozens of similar reports.

14:45: “My slot is 2:15 pm,” wrote another candidate, attaching a mobile phone picture of them being stuck on the verification page including their webcam mugshot and a proof of ID, both of which look legitimate. “Hardly 15 minutes left for the exam,” they added. “My slot is going to [be] over now.”

14:56: We have had several reports of candidates getting the error message “unable to setup audio proctoring”.

We are also getting reports that phone lines are still tough to get through. One account from the first slot:

I had NLAT today at 12:30.

In the starting after verification they told me -“ microphone not detected, check again” I switched off microphone and turned it on again . Then my test started. In the whole exam I was being notified “microphone not detected, check again” even everything was in place on my side. For reassurance I checked it again and a warning was issued to not go to any other window. So after that I just continuously received notification for microphone and was continuously interrupted by it during exam which definitely made me lose time. The simulation test conducted yesterday went well with no problems but today suddenly this problem happened. Such situations are out of control and no one knows what to do with it or what will NLSIU do now. This exam was about my career and the only opportunity for NLAT which somehow was lost due to such errors which were happening even after no problem at my end. This is really not acceptable and depressing. Please help and conduct this in a fair manner which is equal for all.

I called them on technical helpline but they said it’s your fault when the test was started after verifying and in between the test I had my microphone on. They ended my call without addressing my problem and now I am not able to do anything. This is so stressful for a student preparing for such exams for 1year. Nobody is helping and addressing the problem

15:30: The second slot is also over, with the final slot to start at 4pm today. Bad reviews are still pouring in about something as basic as logging into the system and getting verified (which was already a major issue in yesterday’s simulation, so it should not have been a surprise):

I had second slot starting from 2:15 for nlat 2020 but i was not able to write the exam as i was not able to write the exam as I was not verified till 3:04 . I was been preparing to get into NLSIU from the past one year . I’m really disappointed . I dont know what to do. Please help me.

Third slot now over, still complaints keep coming in

17:14: One candidate shared the following detailed account of their NLAT experience, some potentially identifying details of which we have obscured:

I was slated to take the exam during the 2:15 p.m. - 3 p.m. slot. Reporting time was 1:45 p.m. I logged into the portal at 1:[45] p.m. sharp.

For the ID verification, I chose to upload a high resolution, crystal clear JPG scan of my Indian passport. After waiting for a total 8 long minutes, they REJECTED my verification because of my ID. I tried another 2-3 times. Again, crystal clear photo using a 1080p webcam and a crystal clear 4K passport scan with literally all important details legible. They rejected me again and again with each rejection coming at around 5-6 minutes after upload.

Dejected and panicked, at around 2:10 p.m. I called the NLS helpline. I was put into waiting for what essentially was eternity. After 4-5 minutes of trying to contact NLSIU, I got hold of another helpline (probably the test vendor helpline) and called it. A guy answered (thankfully). At first, he deflected responsibility to NLSIU, saying he was only a technical support. After a bit of back and forth, he said he would forward my issue to the NLS team. He also assured me that I would be given some extra time to finish the test, seeing that I was experiencing issues.

The test began at 2:30 p.m. after I used a photo of my Aadhaar shot with my webcam as ID proof. Throughout the test, there were incessant prompts from the system to keep my face in the “camera zone”. It was as though these folks don’t understand that to do calculations on paper for a math question, you need to look at it! However, the disturbing prompts were not the biggest problem.

At the [around 40] minute mark, in a 45 minute test, my paper automatically submitted!! I had not clicked or hit any key to submit my paper. I was busy working out the questions. I was literally robbed of [around five] full minutes of precious test time! I panicked and immediately wrote to the NLSIU email, asking for guidance and help. I don’t think I’ll be getting a response.

This whole experience was one huge failure. From the reporting time itself, I faced way too many technical issues, none of them from my end. I ran a 1080p camera, so they can’t complain about my picture quality being bad. I uploaded 4K scans of my passport, so they can’t complain about my ID not being legible. I have a 40 Mbps internet line, so they can’t complain about bandwidth. Things were literally all right on my end!

This whole experience was devastating, infuriating and deeply disturbing. They cannot treat candidates like this. If they were not prepared to hold this exam, they shouldn’t have announced it! I will literally not make it to NLSIU because I was forced to leave out 4-5 questions because of the test getting auto submitted. I cannot believe that India’s “number one law school” would treat exam candidates this way.

Please post this account on Legally India. I have already written to NLS Admissions. Please make sure the petitioners in the Prof. Venkat Rao case get to see this. They must show the SC what has transpired. This is simply not done.

Auto-submitting papers were not isolated incidents and we have received several other accounts from candidates echoing this experience.

“My paper was going very well,” said one candidate, “and when i was scrolling down to read the passages, the paper got auto submitted before 8 minutes. this exam is very unfair to people like [me]. like i was 100% sure for my selection, as it was going on, but due to the auto submit glitch every thing is ruined now.”

Cheating confirmed very possible, even via Zoom

17:23: We have just published fairly authoritative proof that cheating without detection is theoretically possible in the NLAT: entire NLS admissions test run live via a Zoom screen share

The NLAT is not finished: The PG sessions are starting soon

17:33: After the budding undergraduates have completed the NLAT (or not) in three batches, it is the budding postgraduates’ (PG) turn from 6pm.

The PG is usually a lot less competitive than the UG entrance tests, and one would hope PG’s would be less likely to jeopardise their academic careers by trying to cheat than young kids who have little to lose.

However, more importantly, let’s hope they don’t face the same technical issues. On the bright side, since there are far fewer, the helplines and verification process could actually go more smoothly.

If you sat the PG NLAT and have any feedback by around 7pm when it’s all done, please share in the comments below.

Mainstream media begins covering the debacle

18:08: The Deccan Herald has reported that the test was “marred with technical glitches”, relying primarily on messages from candidates on Twitter.

NLSIU, meanwhile, has hit back (also at the CLAT) with a social media offensive, posting on Twitter:

The three UG NLAT 2020 slots are now complete. Overall attendance of over 94% was recorded. The CLAT 2019 UG exam recorded 90.92% attendance. We thank all students and parents for their faith and belief in NLAT 2020


NLS issues press release about success of NLAT

20:59: NLSIU has issued a press release celebrating the success of the NLAT. We’ve done a short separate story here.

More media coverage

23:00: The Newsminute, also based in Bangalore, has covered the problems faced in today’s exam.

New updates are being added at the bottom of this blog in chronological order.

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