Apple’s new Touch Bar is the updated MacBook Pro’s signature new feature. It offers an array of programmable buttons across the top of the laptop where the function keys typically sit. Unlike function keys, however, these virtual buttons can be adapted to display whatever commands or functions an application wants. That programmability is causing problems for the MacBook Pro in certain markets and is limiting its usefulness in various bar exams.
A new notice from the state of North Carolina notes that the Touch Bar must be disabled before the MacBook Pro can be used for the North Carolina Bar Examination. Test-takers are required to put their laptops in “Expanded Control Strip” mode before they will be allowed to take the test. this mode only allows the laptop to display basic functions, not advanced capabilities or information, as MacRumors notes. Users are required to submit laptops for inspection before they may take the test.
The new MacBook Pro w/ Touch Bar
The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners issued the following statement to justify the requirement:
We are requiring the MacBook Pro Touch Bar feature to be disabled, because it gives an unfair advantage to any student using it during the exam. We feel it is unfair to tell applicants they are not allowed to use their Mac Book Pro so close to the exam, and Examsoft has verified that if this feature is disabled, then Examsoft will run the same for all applicants.
North Carolina’s approach is positively lenient compared with the position some states have taken. New York State and Colorado require that users who show up to take their tests will be required to answer questions by hand if they have a new Mac Pro, though they’re allowed to download a new copy of Examsoft to a separate machine, provided they do so in advance. Katherine Silver Kelly, at Exam Wizard, reports that California, Tennessee, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virgina, and Texas have all banned use of the new Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro, full-stop.
Obviously this is a problem that’s only going to affect a handful of people. But it’s worth paying attention to how the issue develops if you’re planning to sit for an exam and wanted to use a new MBP. Other testing organizations may follow suite on this, at least until there’s a method for locking down the Touch Bar that passes muster with various licensing organizations. As of this writing, it’s not clear if such a mode exists, but the option to turn off predictive text would seem to be an easy way to address the problem.