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U.S. states extend bar exam deadlines after software havoc

By Daniel Wiessner and Patience Haggin

(Reuters) - A company that makes software used to administer bar exams in dozens of states has said that delays experienced by thousands of aspiring attorneys across the country have eased, and many states have extended test deadlines.

ExamSoft Worldwide Inc said on Wednesday that a high volume of traffic on Tuesday, the start of the two-day exam, prevented many applicants from submitting their exams.

The delays came as about 9,500 test takers in New York and 40,000 nationwide attempted to upload test answers, said John McAlary, the executive director of the New York State Board of Law Examiners.

"We’ll make sure that ExamSoft explains exactly what happened here and what they’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again," McAlary said.

Most states, however, require submissions to be sent in by Wednesday evening, so few students missed deadlines.

"We understand that it is a stressful time for bar exam takers, and their experience last night was unacceptable to us," Ken Knotts, a vice president at ExamSoft, said in a statement. "We have been working around the clock to resolve this matter."

Test takers at Javitz Convention Center in New York City were split on their views about the company's gaffe.

“I figure in any situation where you have five thousand people in New York state, and I’m sure many more than that nationwide, there’s bound to be some sort of server problem,” said Tom James from Boston College.

Robert Pollack from NYU Law School said: "This happens every year. They knew months in advance the day this was going to happen. Especially after we paid so much money, I would expect them to be prepared for it.”

Roughly 40 states contract with the company to provide software for their bar exams. Aspiring lawyers pay up to $150 to ExamSoft to offset the costs of licensing the software and printing answers, and to set up test sites.

Officials in Illinois and New York said more than 90 percent of test takers in those states were able to submit exams by Wednesday morning. Deadlines were nevertheless extended to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Illinois and 12 a.m. Thursday in New York.

In Pennsylvania, 1,400 out of nearly 2,100 applicants were able to upload their exams on Tuesday night, said Gicine Brignola, the executive director of the state's board of law examiners. She said the board has extended Wednesday's deadline by several hours to accommodate anyone who experienced a delay.

ExamSoft said deadlines were also extended in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and about 10 other states.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner; Additional reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Ted Botha and Andre Grenon)

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