Intel’s 12th Gen CPU can’t handle the Bar exam

Law students getting ready to take the Bar exam digitally may run into a serious issue: one of the nation’s most frequently-used test-taking software packages, Examplify, is incompatible with Intel’s latest generation of processors.

In a notice to users, ExamSoft, the company that owns Examplify, writes that 12th Gen Intel processors aren’t compatible with its software. “New Windows devices containing the Intel 12th generation chipset are triggering Examplify’s automatic virtual machine check,” Examplify’s notice reads. “These are NOT currently supported. Therefore, they cannot be used for the upcoming July 2022 bar exam.” One user drew attention to the issue in a post on Twitter, and included a screencap of what appears to be a notice given to Bar applicants.

Examplify’s minimum system requirements page confirms that “laptops with an Intel 12 Gen processor are currently not supported.” It’s unclear when that information was added, but it wouldn’t have been much of a warning even if it came months ago. Who would think to read that page if they have a laptop with all the latest hardware? That’s like asking someone with a 3090 Ti, one of the highest-end graphics cards, to check system requirements before they boot up a game.

If their laptops turn out to be incompatible, students don’t have a lot of other options. Examplify’s software doesn’t support desktops, Chromebooks, or computers that run Linux either — only MacBooks that run macOS Catalina or above, or Windows laptops new enough that they offer Windows 10 or 11, but old enough not to come with the new Intel processors.

It’s not yet clear if students had any other warning beyond the message spotted via Twitter. The Bar exam is just two weeks away on July 26th and 27th, and Examplify is the piece of software used to administer the Bar in many states. According to Bloomberg Law, it’s also used by over 150 law schools across the US for remote testing.

Bar exams taken through Examplify last year didn’t go all that smoothly either. Throughout the year, Bloomberg Law reports, students experienced difficulty uploading files, having portions of their essays deleted, and getting kicked out of the test due to facial recognition glitches — if the test didn’t crash completely. At the time, an ExamSoft spokesperson attributed the problems to “memory issues on some devices.”

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), the organization that develops the Bar exam itself, told The Verge that it’s aware of the issue, but that it’s essentially up to the individual jurisdictions administering the exam to figure things out. According to NCBE spokesperson Valerie Hickman, each state is responsible for choosing the exam software.

“While NCBE is not directly involved in the administration of the exam, it is aware of ExamSoft’s communication to examinees regarding Windows devices with an Intel 12th generation chipset,” Hickman said in a statement to The Verge. “Examinees with questions should reach out directly to ExamSoft or to their jurisdiction.”

The NCBE issued a similar, equally unhelpful response upon hearing reports of the various technical difficulties during last year’s exams, telling Bloomberg Law that it “supports the jurisdictions” in figuring out a solution.

This isn’t the only compatibility issue we’ve seen with a recent Intel processor, either. Both 11th and 12th Gen Intel processors nixed support for SGX (software guard extension), which makes it difficult if not impossible to play Blu-rays in 4K on newer devices. As BleepingComputer explains, Blu-rays need SGX for digital rights management (DRM) processing in order to play in 4K.