Reviewing Your First Semester: Improving Exam Performance Professor Jason P. Nance Levin College of Law Some Hard Truths Few law students do as well as they had hoped coming in. This a time of readjustment for many, as we take a group of extremely bright people and “reorder them” from top to bottom. This is not the mythical Lake Wobegon. All of you cannot be “above average.” More Hard truths . . . In law school, we violate nearly every good practice when it comes to use of examinations to teach: – Too few exams – Too little feedback – Too little chance to learn from mistakes So, What to Do? DON’T GIVE UP!! MANY STUDENTS DO IMPROVE GRADES AND RISE IN RANK AFTER FIRST SEMESTER. See Your First Year Professors, If Possible – Key: Disarm professor by stating upfront that you are not interested in challenging your grade, but only interested in learning from exam – Why? Understand Professor’s Perspective He/she has worked very hard grading, and has tried to be very fair. Grading is worst part of job. Must be done in context. When you challenge grade, it brings out worst in professor. Also, many professors curve UP to the mandatory 3.25 GPA. That means that some of them feel that they have already been TOO generous with their grades. They think that you should be happy with your grade – w/out curve, it likely would have been much worse! So, Try to See Your Exam With Answer Key, to honestly assess what you could have done better. Do Not use it as subterfuge to fight over the grade. Ask for explanations of what you did wrong. Do not be surprised if your professor’s answers to your questions are relatively vague, as the difference between a B+ and an A or A- exam may be difficult to explain, especially after the fact. Grading occurs in context. Here’s a Summary of What Some Professors Had to Say Students often FAIL TO ANSWER THE SPECIFIC QUESTION ASKED ON THE EXAM. They want to prove how much doctrine they know rather than attack the question as a problem to be solved. Some students fail to follow directions. “I wish I could find some way to convince students that displaying some degree of informed intellectual curiosity is the best way to perform well on exams. You have to sound like you’re interested in engaging the problem.” “I have found that poor performance rests primarily on superficial analysis of the problem statements rather than simple lack of knowledge of doctrine . . . .” Take Away Message? Now, more than ever, hard work will pay off because you have a better idea of what is expected of you and what will work. Don’t necessarily do just more of the same; adjust study habits. Keep things in perspective; remember that you’re at a great law school. There is more to good lawyering that law school grades. Questions?