We offer students who have a laptop that meets certain minimum specifications the option to take their in-class final exams on their laptops. Students who elect this option use software called SofTest from the company ExamSoft Worldwide. The software blocks access to all applications and stored files during the exam administration, and blocks access to the internet and instant messenger. Over 140 law schools in the US and Canada and 39 state bar jurisdictions are using SofTest with excellent results.
Although there is a charge for the SofTest software, the law school will absorb the cost so that there will be no charge to our students.
Registration for spring 2016 exams for JD students begins March 16 and will run through April 20, 2016. LLM programs may end registration earlier; please check with your program office for more information.
To register, visit our custom homepage on the ExamSoft website.
Please note that any JD student who signs up to use ExamSoft and later decides to take one or more exams with standard blue books, must notify the Registrar, Aida Ten, no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, April 22. Please indicate for which exam(s) you no longer wish to use ExamSoft. LLM and exchange program students should notify their respective program office.
Students who elect to use SofTest must review the following information carefully:
Who is eligible to sign up for ExamSoft?
ExamSoft is now available for all JD, LLM, and foreign exchange students whose computer meets the minimum specifications.
How does SofTest work?
For essay responses, SofTest serves as a simplified word processor similar to Microsoft Word. The software blocks access to all applications and stored files on the laptop during the exam. Once the exam begins, you can work only on the exam and cannot regain access to your files until you exit the exam. Thus, even if an exam is open-book, you will not have access to any notes, outlines, etc. that are stored on your laptop. Therefore, you still will need to bring in hard copies of notes or other materials that are allowed for an open-book or restricted open-book exam. Even if the laptop is shut off, crashes, or freezes, upon rebooting the computer a dialog box appears informing you that an unfinished exam has been located and giving you the option of continuing the exam or, if you are finished and want to exit, of exiting the exam. The application saves your exam every 60 seconds and creates multiple backup copies, all of which are stored in encrypted format on your hard drive. If your laptop crashes during an exam and there are problems with rebooting it, an encrypted copy of your exam answer will be on the laptop, which only authorized law school personnel can retrieve.
At the end of an exam, you will upload your exam answers to a secure server via the internet. The answer files are retrieved and printed by authorized law school personnel, and they are given to the professors with the other exams (the exams are still graded anonymously).
What are the required laptop specifications?
PC System Requirements:
CPU: 1.86 Intel Core Duo or greater
RAM: 2 GB or greater
Hard Drive: 1 GB free space
Wireless Network card: 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n
Operating System: English-language versions ONLY of one of the following:
Windows XP (32-bit version only), Windows Vista (all versions), Windows 8 (all versions) or Windows 7 (all versions)
Internet access for SofTest installation, exam download, and upload. To upload your exam answers at the conclusion of each exam you must have your laptop configured for the law school wireless network (802.1x) prior to the start of exams.
Display resolution must be 1024×768 or higher
Apple Macintosh Users:
CPU: Intel-Based (MacBook / MacBook Pro / MacBook Air) ONLY
RAM: 2GB or greater
Hard Drive: 1 GB free space
Operating System: English-language versions ONLY of Mac OS X 10.7 or higher are supported.
Internet access for SofTest installation, exam download and upload. To upload your exam answers at the conclusion of each exam you must have your laptop configured for the law school wireless network (802.1x) prior to the start of exams.
It is not possible to take secure exams through a virtual operating system such as Bootcamp, Parallels or any other virtual operating system environment.
Will the Law School provide a laptop if I don’t have one?
Unfortunately, the Law School cannot provide laptops. You may want to look into renting a laptop or borrowing a laptop, but you must make sure that the laptop meets the above specifications. Possible places to rent laptops are:
SmartSource Rentals (800-888-8686)
SLC Rentals (800-752-7368)
Please note that these companies are not affiliated with Boston University and unfortunately we cannot guarantee the quality of any laptops from those companies.
According to our financial aid office, JD students who need to purchase a laptop can use private or federal loan funds. The University allows students to add up to $2,500 to their student budget to cover the cost of a computer. This amount can include a printer, additional software, peripheral equipment, and warranty or service contracts. Students must make purchases during the academic year in which they are requesting the increase or after July 1 of the summer before that academic year. Students who purchase a computer for less than $2,500 may request the balance in subsequent years if needed for replacement or upgrade purposes. If you want to add the cost of a computer to your student budget, you must bring a copy of the invoice or receipt with a letter requesting the increase to your budget to the Law Financial Aid Office, 12th floor of the law school.
My laptop does not meet the minimum specs but my roommate uses SofTest. Can I use their laptop for my exams?
Students may use a borrowed laptop as long as the laptop owner uses the same version of SofTest, is not registered for the same classes as the borrower, and there are no exam time conflicts. Any student who plans on using a friend’s laptop for their spring 2016 finals must notify the Registrar’s Office by April 20, 2016. The Registrar’s Office will provide further instructions.
Will I be at a disadvantage if I don’t/can’t use a laptop on my exams?
No. Schools that have allowed law students to use laptops on exams have not found that those students receive higher grades than students who do not use laptops. In fact, faculty sometimes report that it is easier to spot weaknesses in answers when they are typed.
How do I register to take my exams on my laptop this semester?
Students may sign up with ExamSoft, install the software and register SofTest between March 16 and April 20, 2016. To register for spring 2016:
- Sign up through the ExamSoft website. (Instructions for both first-time and returning users are included on this custom home page.)
- Download and install the latest version of the software (SofTest).
- Register SofTest.
Please note that if you experience any problems with downloading the software, you may contact ExamSoft directly at their toll-free number 866-429-8889, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Live Chat through the BU Law custom home page. Their hours are 8:30–5:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. The Law School’s Information Services and Technology (IS&T) staff is also avaliable to assist with this process.
I used SofTest last semester. Do I need to re-download the software?
No. If you registered and used the software in fall 2015, you do not need to re-register SofTest. However, if you have not used the software yet, or have not used it since last spring, you will need to download and register SofTest. We encourage all JD students to download, register and test their software before April 20, 2016.
When can I sign up?
JD students may sign up with ExamSoft, install the software and register SofTest between March 16 and April 20, 2016. Sign-up, download, installation, and registration with ExamSoft may take approximately 30 minutes, depending on your internet connection.
Step-by-step instructions for downloading the software and registering SofTest are on the ExamSoft site.
How will I know if I have downloaded the software correctly?
ExamSoft will e-mail you a confirmation once you have completed the entire download and registration process. If you do not receive this e-mail you should confirm that you’ve completed the steps by logging onto their website and checking your registration status or by launching the software and checking that your status is listed as “complete.”
We strongly recommend you take the “Mock Exam” so that you become familiar with the software. The “Mock Exam” feature was added to provide exam takers an opportunity to experience downloading, taking, and uploading an exam administered in secure mode using SofTest. Once you register SofTest, you will be notified on-screen that there is an exam file available for download. You may download, take, and upload the Mock Exam at your convenience up to ten times. You may also opt to take the practice exam. To take the practice exam, double-click the SofTest icon on your Windows desktop and click the “Practice Exam” button when the SofTest Start Window appears.
The spellchecker is available on my Practice Exams. Will it be available on my actual exam?
The spellchecker function will not be enabled for your actual exams.
Does the format of the Practice Exam directly reflect the format of my actual exam?
The basic layout of the question and answers will be the same. Spellcheck is not enabled for your exam, but you will have the Cut, Copy & Paste options. All other word processing features will be the same on both the Practice Exam and your actual exam.
My exam has a word limit for the essay. Can I view my word count?
A character count is automatically displayed at the bottom of the page in which you are working. SofTest also has a tool to check your word count. Windows users and Mac users: Select “Stats” in the Navigation Bar on the right hand side of the screen to find the word count. For essays with multiple questions with word limits, you may opt to answer each question in a different answer pane to ensure separate word counts.
Are there any other tools I should know about?
SofTest has an alarm feature. You may use it to enter the number of minutes from that point that you would like a warning message. You may access the Reminder Alarm from the tools menu.
What if I miss the deadline for registering with ExamSoft. Can I still register and take exams on my laptop?
JD students who miss the registration deadline do so at their own risk. Any student who has not registered the latest version of the software by the deadline (check with your program office for specific dates) may be required to handwrite their exams. The deadlines allow sufficient time for downloading/testing software and will ensure that you have time to download files prior to exam day.
How will the Registrar know which exams I want to take on my laptop? What if I change my mind?
We will assume that students who are fully registered with ExamSoft are taking all spring 2016 exams on their laptop unless we are otherwise notified. Please note you are responsible for verifying that your class information is correct. A course confirmation was mailed to JD students (local address) at the conclusion of the spring add/drop period.
Any JD student who changes their mind and decides to take one or more exams with standard blue books must notify the Registrar, Aida Ten, by e-mail no later than 5 p.m. on April 22, 2016. Please indicate to which exam(s) this applies. LLM and exchange students should notify their graduate program office.
Can I still use my laptop for an exam if I qualify for exam relief or get permission to reschedule an exam?
Yes. We will attempt to accommodate students taking rescheduled exams in proctored exam rooms. We cannot guarantee proctors or technical support will be available to handle laptop issues for rescheduled exams. Students granted exam relief should still download the exam file in advance of the original exam date.
When can I download my exams?
Exam files are available to download six days prior to the scheduled exam date. Registered students will receive an e-mail reminder six days before the exam (adding email@example.com to your list of contacts should ensure that the reminder is not sent to your spam folder). You must download the exam file prior to exam day. If you do not receive the automated e-mail and the exam is not available when you attempt a download, you should check your status with the Registrar’s Office. Students who have not downloaded the exam file prior to their exam will have to hand-write the exam. The starting time of an exam will not be delayed, nor will the ending time be extended for any student (be sure to check your firewall status before downloading an exam).
How do I download my exams?
- Connect to the internet.
- Double-click the “SofTest” icon on your Windows desktop (or single-click the icon from the Applications folder or dock on your Mac). The “SofTest Launcher” window should appear.
- Click the “Download Exam Files” button.
- Enter your BU ID number (including the “U”) and your ExamSoft password, then Click “Next.”
- If the Download Password screen appears, leave it blank and click “Next.”
- Select an exam from the list and click “Download.” If there is a second exam in the list, do the same. When you have downloaded your available exam file(s), click “Close” and then the “Exit” button.
Will I need to plug in my laptop during the exam, or can I just rely on battery power?
Laptop users will be required to plug their computers into outlets and may not rely on battery power.
If I use a laptop for exams, will I be in the same exam room as those who are writing their exams?
Yes, laptop users and hand-writers will be in the same exam room. The Registrar will provide ear plugs for the hand-writers as needed. Hand-writers must report to the exam room no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the exam. Laptop users must report to the exam room no later than 30 minutes before the scheduled time of the exam in order to perform the required set up. Software must be opened within 15 minutes prior to the start of the exam. If the software cannot be opened at least 15 minutes before the start of the exam, the student must hand-write the exam. The starting time of the exam will not be delayed, nor will the ending time be extended. The actual time you have to do the exam is the same as for others who are not using laptops for that exam.
Please note that because of space constraints, students may be in exam rooms where more than one exam is being administered at the same time.
What if I have a problem with my laptop or the software during the exam?
Immediately inform the proctor, who will contact Law IS&T staff. If any hardware/software problems occur during the exam, you must start handwriting the exam. Standard blue books will be available in the exam room. In that case, the professor will be given the typed part of the exam plus the blue book part. No additional time will be given to complete the exam even if there are problems during the exam with hardware/software. Generally, our experience has been that most technical problems can be solved within a few minutes.
How is my exam answer printed out?
When you finish the exam, your answer file will automatically upload to a secure server once you connect to the internet. Authorized law school personnel will access your exam file and print out the exam (it is impossible to print out the exam without specialized software that only authorized law school personnel will have). Unless otherwise directed by the professor, the standard for printing will be double-spaced and the default font is Arial 11 pt.
What if my computer crashes after the Registration Deadline?
Students who have fully registered with ExamSoft by April 20 may return to the website and re-download the software, if necessary. Students who experience computer problems after April 22 should notify the Registrar’s Office of any difficulties. Students who have already downloaded an exam file when their computer crashed will require an adjustment to their account before they can re-download the exam file.