How to disable the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro so you can take your exams

As reported by 9to5Mac, North Carolina recently sent a notice to Bar Exam applicants that anyone using the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar will be required to disable the Touch Bar before entering the exam room.

The details as to why the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners decided to put these regulations in place is unclear. But a staff member told 9to5Mac that "applicants are required to disable the Touch Bar because it can compromise Examination integrity and security." The Verge also noted that Colorado banned the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar from Bar Exams because the Touch Bar is "not compatible with the security features of the ExamSoft software," which is a security software used to give the tests.

This may be the start of something bigger. As more students and exam-takers show up with the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, teachers and administrators will have to decide whether to take action and what rules to put in place.

You can't actually disable the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, but you can set customizations in place that will temporarily disable contextual tools by expanding the Control Strip and hiding app tool options. This causes the Touch Bar to only display systemwide tools for the Mac, like display brightness, Launchpad, or playback controls. You could also set the Function Keys as the default Touch Bar display, which would replace app tools with the Function Keys, but this is on an app-by-app basis and no one wants to do that just before going in to take an exam!

How to disable Touch Bar functionality by expanding the Control Strip on the MacBook Pro

You can find the Keyboard settings by searching in Spotlight, or manually access them via System Preferences.

  1. Click on the Apple menu icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Click on System Preferences in the drop down menu.

  1. Click on Keyboard.
  2. Click on the Keyboard tab.
  3. Under Touch Bar Shows, click the drop down menu and select Expanded Control Strip.

This will set the Touch Bar to only show the Control Strip tools, no matter what app you are using.

Your thoughts?

What do you think about the Board of Law examiners requiring that the Touch Bar be disabled during exams? Do you think this rule will carry over to more institutions in the future?

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • Huh! It didn't even occur to me this was possible.
  • Not sure why you would want to, it's like disabling 3D touch on the iPhone, you might not use it a lot but there's no point disabling it entirely, you might find a use for it now and again
  • i love the touch bar. it's neat to know there's a setting in case you need it off, though.
  • I'm trying to think of what the touch bar can do that cannot be done on the screen. Does the test security software disable functions on-screen that cannot be disabled on touch bar? Are they worried that you could create some kind of touch bar app that like contains your notes or something? I thought the touch bar had only two options: the features supported by the app with focus on the desktop, or the standard system-level "stuff" like autocorrect and function keys. Is that incorrect? Can touch bar run an "app" independently of the program with focus on-screen? I don't own one so I legitimately don't know. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's pretty stupid, if the Touch Bar can show notes, then then any application could be forced to display notes on the screen. The Touch Bar can't do anything that can't be done on the screen, because it's designed to be a shortcut bar. Sure you could program it to show notes, but you could also program the main screen to show that too. I didn't even know places allowed computers into exam rooms, surely the exam rooms would have their own computers set up in a controlled environment?
  • It's unclear why the Board made the rule. But I would guess it is because the Control Strip hides predictive text. If you are typing with the app controls active, the Touch Bar can show suggested word. It is possible that a person might get suggested words that would help them answer a question. It isn't much different than using a text expander or text shortcuts, but at least the examiner could have control over whether applicants can use the predictive text feature on the Touch Bar.
  • What's to stop you putting predictive text on the screen with some other application? I go back to my original statement: "surely the exam rooms would have their own computers set up in a controlled environment?" Disabling the Touch Bar doesn't really solve any problems. Relatable image:
  • It's making hay over a problem that's not a problem. It's as stupid as stopping refugees from coming into a country because of terrorism but having never had a refugee ever become a terrorist.