Wednesday, November 29, 2006

'Tis the Season to be Graded

Exam season is upon us yet again, which means that it is time to post advice on how to perform well on final exams, beyond just understanding the subject. I did a post a last semester that is worth reading; it is located here. It links to some other posts as well, on subjects like how law profs write exams and how to improve your grades in law school. Please check it out.

And for those who are obsessed with grades (which you shouldn't be--but more on that some other time), check out a post earlier this year about Justice Harry Blackmun's bad grades in law school.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's a bit late in the semester to be of any real help, but I found the book Getting to Maybe to be an extremely helpful resouce on how to take exams. it explores the process of issue spotting and how to organize an argument to demonstrate to the professor that you have a full knowledge of the material. The same company publishes another book that you might have heard of Getting To Yes which is often required reading in Business school about negociation techniques and that book should be read by every one just because it is practical and great advice in real life.

One bit of advice that I can give students when it comes to exams (particularly in certain classes) is don't antagonize the professor before s/he writes or grades the exams. I know that first year some people are convinced that they will make a 4.0 because they know everything and in fact think that they know so much that they can play poker in class and not pay attention. Some students might want to announce to the world that they are such a self proclaimed genius. But you should really refrain from attempts to put the professor in a foul temper in this manner for several reasons. First, they can raise or lower your grade for no reason with out having to explain why one half letter grade. second they can write a difficult exam with questions very few people will be able to answer (believe it or not they are smarter than you) Third, they set the grading curve. I've been in classes where one and only one A was given for the semester. Fourth, you might want a recomendation when you are looking for a job this summer, and fifth the school tracks our internet use and online gambling is illegal. If you irritated a professor enough to find out which sites were open on which IP adresses durring that class and s/he found out that illegal activity was taking place in his/her class, s/he might feel honor bound to report that activity to character and fitness.
In short, act like adults and have meaningful discussion, that's what a blog is for. Its not for making sarcastic jabs at your professor in hopes that you make your classmates laugh and you get away with it.
Aside from that, calm down and study hard. If you haven't finished your outlines by now it might help you to find some old outlines to suplement your own work so you can start studying the material instead of organizing it. Every one is different but a common first year mistake is feeling the need to finish an outline at the last minute because every one else has one. If you are just finishing the outline the night before the exam, it won't do you much good. Outlines that are specific to a course are better than comercial outlines, your notes from this year properly organized are better than those. Good luck, we all get through this right of passage and then come out with a better idea of what is going on in law school. Until you've taken that first round of exams, you don't really know or appreciate it. Many of you are going to make Cs and be surprised by that. A C is a Degree so it is said but like most students your GPA will continue to increase over the next several semesters and you can still graduate with distinction so don't take it too hard.

Anonymous said...

Of course, students shouldn't be obsessed with grades. Law school shouldn't be seen as a means to an end--in fact, no educational experience should be seen in such a way. It's the journey, of course, that is meaningful...the process of changing the way one thinks is beautiful to behold.

However, to assert that grades don't matter (and to hold Justice Blackmun as an example of this) is deceptive. Justice Blackmun lived in a time where there were fewer attorneys, thus less competition for jobs. Today, I would assume (and I am willing to admit that I am merely assuming this...I, of course, could be way off) that it's a good bit harder to get jobs with grades like those. Even after one reads the article and sees that those grades would place Blackmun in the top quarter...does the top quarter at MC Law get good job offers? I don't know, but the talk around the school makes it seem as though job opportunities have become scarce (especially since tort reform) and that the top ten percent is really all that's considered (at least for the jobs that pay in proportion to how much law school costs). Also, Justice Blackmun went to Harvard. Although I'll stand by the statement that MC's a great law school, Harvard it ain't.

My point is that posting Blackmun's grades as encouragement isn't a whole lot of encouragement. Though at this point, I appreciate any amount of encouragement at all.

Anonymous said...

I often hear professors talk about how grades aren't a sign of intelligence. They know several great attorneys that they worked with in big cities in big firms that were C students. What about these stories? What about the other 75% of the class, certainly there aren't 125 public defenders in each class. I was told that Burger King University looks great on the resume, if I don't make the top quarter should I send in my application? Can I get a decent job that will pay off 90k in students loans and feed a family?

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Anonymous 2: I am not asserting that grades do not matter. I am asserting that once you have landed a good position and shown your chops, that is worth far more than your law school GPA. Did I ever know or care whether a corner office partner graduated cum laude or not? No. When I lateraled from one office to another, did my new law firm care whether I got an A or B or C in Civ Pro I? No. I know a good number of students with not top of the class grades, who either landed good positions right out of law school, or worked their way "up the ladder" once in the work force. So it is doable--a challenge, but doable.

Anonymous #3: I suppose you are not doubting that the stories are true. You are doubting whether they matter. The point is that most of the people in those stories were not lucky--they were determined. Maybe many of the rest are not (not such a good thing), or maybe they are but decide the toil is not worth it (which may be a good thing depending on the details of their circumstances). I am not--repeat, not--saying it is a level playing field and that grades do not matter. I am saying that low or average grades are not a fatal blow to your future. After grades come out in January 2007 I will post my thoughts on how to go about jobhunting with average grades, especially from a regional law school.

Wha? said...

What? No talk of Florida in the national championship game? Jeez Louise, ya gotta take a break every once in awhile. Burnout is for real, you know.

Anonymous said...

go gators!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the off topic post. It looks like Prof. Bowman needs to up his standards to get the competitive edge...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=RxO-XRWiRpI

Perhaps you could give an explication of the proposed amendments to the UCC while playing Super Dad.

shell said...

I have quickly drafted a list of study suggestions for 1L's. My apologies in advance if it comes a little bit too late in the semester. I am also knee deep in the study frenzy myself.

Good luck with the exams!

Trey said...

Thanks for the extra 20 minutes today. However, I was still hearing *beep* *beep* *beep* in my head for at least 15 of those extra 20. What a strange experience that was! We were all so confused. There was no proctor in the room at the time, and we were afraid to consult with each other about what to do because we didn't want to be accused of cheating. It was VERY scary. The funny thing is that the fear was not of burning or dying of smoke inhalation. Instead, the fear surrounded our fate with our exam. My first thought was, why not the Property exam?