For the first time ever, Law School Admission Council (LSAC), creator of the LSAT—India, will be administering the 2020 LSAT—India online to provide a secure and timely testing opportunity for candidates despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving 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. Thus, they can continue their goal of pursuing legal education despite necessary public health restrictions on travel and public gathering. In an exclusive interaction with Higher Education Digest, Kellye Testy, President & CEO, LSAC, talks about the significant challenges of administering LSAT – India online by ensuring integrity, learnings for the education sector from COVID-19 disruption, and many more. Excerpts.
What are the significant challenges for LSAC to administer the 2020 LSAT—India online for the first time?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on families and communities across India and around the world. We have heard from so many law aspirants across India who want to pursue their legal education to make a difference in their communities. In that spirit, we are pleased to deliver the LSAT—India in a secure online manner that will preserve the safety and health of students, parents, and administrators.
Delivering an online test to thousands of students in their own homes in the middle of a global pandemic is a big challenge. Still, our organization is built on a history of innovation, research, and access. Fortunately, we began work on a digital LSAT more than five years ago. That work has provided a strong foundation for our transition to an online, remotely proctored LSAT to address the COVID-19 emergency. Regarding the LSAT—India, we were already planning to transition to a computer-based test in 2021. Given the current global health situation, we were in an excellent position to make that move this year.
We started with three priorities: security, reliability, and student convenience. We set out to recreate the stringent security protocols we have for our paper-and-pencil test. With the help of the AI technology on the testing platform and other security measures, we will be able to identify misconduct, thus preserving the integrity of the exam and helping us maintain our high-security standards.
As you may know, we recently delivered our first-ever online LSAT administration in the U.S. and Canada, which was generally successful. Nearly 10,000 candidates took the LSAT-Flex between May 18 and 22. While some test takers experienced technical difficulties with their computers or internet connections, 99 per cent of test-takers who started the test successfully completed it. We are using the experience of delivering the May exam to make future online administrations like the July LSAT—India even better.
We have been a trusted and reliable partner to law schools for 75 years. In that time, the LSAT has been referred to as the “gold standard” for law school admission testing. For more than 10 years, we have administered the LSAT—India for admission into law schools in India and have proven that we’re able to maintain the same high standard. It’s our responsibility to deliver reliable and accurate scores every time we administer an exam, and that commitment will continue as we move into an online format.
As the test moves from traditional mode to an online administration, what advantages do the candidates get?
Transitioning to an online, remotely proctored exam will help resolve significant challenges that law aspirants face this year. The main advantage, of course, is being able to test without being distracted by safety and health concerns. But it is also much more convenient. There is no need to travel anywhere to take the LSAT—India this year, no need to wait for other test takers to check-in, and so on. This online format allows candidates to take the test at home, in a comfortable and familiar environment that is free of distractions.
Tell us about the efforts taken by LSAC in making awareness about the online test pattern. How did you address the concerns for candidates on testing on an online format?
We began with a public announcement to the press, information posted on our website, and email communication to all registered candidates. We also reached out to several coaching institutes and influencers who have helped us in sharing the details of the test with students seeking admission into a law program this year. We have hosted a variety of webinars with LSAC Global Law Alliance members and other stakeholders such as Careers360. We have more webinars planned this month on diversity in the legal profession, the value of global legal education experience, and an in-depth session on preparing for the LSAT—India. Closer to the test date, we will also be sending out a detailed document familiarizing LSAT—India test-takers with what they should expect with the new format, test day do’s and don’ts, how to navigate through the test, and basic troubleshooting. We will also provide a short mock test to familiarize candidates with the online test format. Additionally, to help ease candidates’ concerns, we promptly respond to any query received on our candidate support lines (+91 89898 00123) and support email box (discoverlawindia@LSAC.org).
Cheating can occur in several ways, both before and during an exam. How is LSAC planning to control examination fraud?
For LSAC, the integrity of the test is of foremost importance. We have taken measures to help prevent candidate fraud and flag any possible misconduct.
Candidates are required to upload their photo while filling out the registration application for the LSAT—India. We review all the uploaded photos to make sure they clearly depict the candidate and appear to be recent, and we ask candidates to upload replacement photos when necessary.
On the day of the test, candidates will be required to show, via their webcam, a photo identification from the list of published acceptable IDs before they are allowed to begin the test. There will be strict rules about what a candidate may have on their desk or table during the test. The secured browser that candidates will have to install to take the test will ensure that candidates cannot run any application in the background or access any material already present on the system as long as they are testing. It completely locks down their system. During the entire duration of the exam, our software will monitor candidate movement and flag any suspicious movement for detailed investigation by the LSAC team.
Finally, we use sophisticated statistical techniques after the test to identify anomalous testing behaviour that may indicate misconduct.
What are learnings for the education sector from COVID-19 disruption? As a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting quality, access, and equity in law and education, how does LSAC see this situation?
Many of the lessons we have learned are grounded in the Hindi word “jugaad,” a creative or innovative idea that provides an efficient alternative way of solving a problem. We have faced several challenges in the past three months that we would not have been able to conquer without a heavy dose of jugaad, coupled with a focused determination to succeed no matter the odds.
Flexibility, adaptability, and quick decision-making to respond to the changing times are essential. The education sector will need to strike the right balance between time-tested practices and innovative new approaches to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19 and other factors. Outreach and admission counselling, teaching methods, access to educational resources — all these aspects of education will need to be reviewed and updated. We have seen many law colleges in the U.S. and in India transition portions of their curriculum to a virtual environment. The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Still, thanks to technological advances, higher education institutions are finding creative and effective new ways to do what they do best: teaching.
With virtual education becoming the new normal, LSAC believes access can and should improve for candidates with disabilities and those with limited financial resources. Faculties need not travel long distances now, whether across the globe or within India, and can reach out to students from anywhere in the world. This will require a focus on the needs of candidates with disabilities and candidates with limited resources but should help make professors and academic training more available for candidates.
As the President and CEO, tell us about your plans for LSAC. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
From the time we administered the first LSAT in 1948, LSAC has been working to help expand and diversify the opportunities for students around the world to discover law while creating pathways for them to connect with the right law school. Today, our commitment to cutting-edge research, industry-leading assessments, and innovative technology solutions to help law schools recruit, admit, and retain candidates is stronger than ever. You can see that commitment to innovation in our efforts to deliver the secure online LSAT—India exam in a few short weeks so that students can pursue their law school aspirations without having to risk their health and safety.
More broadly, we strive to work with leaders in law and legal education to support India’s continued development as a significant contributor to the global economy. As the centre of civilizations for millennia and the largest democracy in the world today, India’s leadership in modelling the rule of law is critical. In the short run, our goals include adding more law schools that deliver high-quality legal education to the LSAC Global Law Alliance. We would like to collaborate with law schools that share our student-centric vision and see the value in accepting LSAT—India scores as part of their admission process. We are also working with organizations like Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA) to promote access for the underprivileged and to bring diversity to Indian law schools.
In the long term, we plan to deepen our partnerships with Indian law schools to ensure that law students are prepared to provide all kinds of legal services, from the everyday legal needs of families and small businesses to courts and government agencies to international corporations and law firms. We are building resources for law aspirants to ease their enrollment journeys and exposing high school students to the plethora of opportunities in law. We are also laying the foundation for LSAC Global (our Indian subsidiary) to serve as a hub for legal education and law practice in India. All of this is in keeping with LSAC’s mission of opening the doors of justice to all who seek it — and, in turn, building a more just and prosperous world.
More About Kellye Testy
Since 2017, Kellye Testy has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the leading assessment, data, and technology hub for law schools and their candidates in the United States, Canada, and throughout the world. Under Testy’s leadership, LSAC, a 350-employee, not-for-profit organization, has worked with its law school members and candidates, colleges and universities, as well as leading organizations in law, education, and business, to promote universal access to justice as a way to build a more just and prosperous world.
Testy was named the nation’s second most influential leader in legal education by National Jurist in 2017; the previous year, she served as president of the Association of American Law Schools, with the presidential theme of “Why Law Matters,” to focus on how the law plays a critical role in ensuring justice and human prosperity. She served on the AALS Executive Committee from 2013 to 2017, cochaired the AALS Section for the Law School Dean, and served on the Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Law Teachers and Students.
She is a nationally sought-after speaker, panellist, and consultant on legal and higher education, leadership, diversity and access, and corporate law and governance; recent speaking engagements include the 2019 Lavender Law Conference in Philadelphia, the 2019 Promoting Diversity in Law School Leadership Conference at Villanova University, the 2019 Yale Women’s Leadership Initiative Conference, and numerous LSAC-sponsored events and panel discussions.
Testy is a first-generation college graduate who earned both her undergraduate degree in journalism and her law degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, her hometown. She graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University Maurer School of Law—Bloomington, where she was editor-in-chief of the Indiana Law Journal. After graduating, she clerked for Judge Jesse E. Eschbach, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.