Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

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Lolek
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Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Lolek » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:15 pm

I'm interested in this broad generalization of all 0L students as having the same ability when entering law school.

In other words, people always claiming that you should not enter law school "expecting" top rank. Why not?

I understand the chance of being Top 10%, is 10%...but we're not robots who all write the same test 200 times while the professor draws a magical line dividing one random lottery of students from the rest. Someone, in the end, gets that Top 10% every year. Do you honestly think that this is a matter of luck? That that Top 10% at that particular school did not do better than the rest but instead had a lucky grade draw?

I am fully aware that everybody goes to law school with the intent of being the best in the class (at least I hope), but judging them by how they were able to study for the LSAT as a valid precursor towards understanding the concepts of their law classes and doing well is not a good indicator of their possible performance.

Some people may understand things conceptually and apply them easily in law, others might have to sit there and memorize everything to reach a similar conclusion. We're all different. It is indeed hard to be at the top in a law class, but it is not something that you, as a law student, have no control over. Which many here seem to think is the case, throwing rankings around as if they are a lottery number.

Looking forward to opinions on this.

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bilbobaggins
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby bilbobaggins » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:19 pm

It's not necessarily based on incoming skill being the same, but on grading being fairly random with the difference between performance being small, but because of the curve the difference in grades sometimes being large.

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Lolek
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Lolek » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:22 pm

bilbobaggins wrote:It's not necessarily based on incoming skill being the same, but on grading being fairly random with the difference between performance being small, but because of the curve the difference in grades sometimes being large.


All I'm saying is, even if that is the case, someone who gets Top 10% clearly needs to be doing better in every class than most of the others. Don't you think after a few classes it becomes about a little more than just luckily landing on the greener side of the grass?

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sunynp
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby sunynp » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:26 pm

It is a lottery because until you sit for the exams and get your grades, you really have no idea how well you will perform. You can never assume you will be top 10% but most people think that is where they will end up. People go into law school thinking that because they were smart in their undergrad, they will be smart in law school.. That is not the case. And, do not underestimate the effect of the curve on a group of highly motivated students.

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thesealocust
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:32 pm

Of course it's a matter of luck when you're talking to a stranger. Every single student will fall somewhere between the top 1% and bottom 1%. So if you, some shmuck on the internet, has a question about law school that depends on grades, I'm going to assume you could wind up anywhere in the class. Because you could.

As for you individually, there's only so much you can do to minimize the chaotic nature of law school exams and grading given that everyone else is trying hard too. You aren't the only one who has seen how grim this job market is.

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Mickey Quicknumbers
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Mickey Quicknumbers » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:34 pm

There's nothing subjective about the grading (most of the time), but writing a law school exam takes a certain skill, and you don't know if you have that skill or not, that's the lottery party. Of course, you can practice with tests, you can improve your skills for sure, but just like any skill there are people who are simply more gifted than others and you won't have any clue where you stand until sometime in January of your second semester.

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Lolek
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Lolek » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:35 pm

sunynp wrote:It is a lottery because until you sit for the exams and get your grades, you really have no idea how well you will perform.


Uncertainty about your performance on the test does not transform the grading process into a lottery. For you to have received a lower grade means that someone wrote a more thorough and correct answer than you. The amount of people that have done so will bring about your final resulting grade.

thesealocust wrote:Of course it's a matter of luck when you're talking to a stranger. Every single student will fall somewhere between the top 1% and bottom 1%. So if you, some shmuck on the internet, has a question about law school that depends on grades, I'm going to assume you could wind up anywhere in the class. Because you could.

As for you individually, there's only so much you can do to minimize the chaotic nature of law school exams and grading given that everyone else is trying hard too. You aren't the only one who has seen how grim this job market is.


Aha, I see. So you completely dodged my question and instead insisted on presenting random statistics that do not weigh in individual abilities but instead group everybody into the same individual with the same chances, and the same skill set.

Way to go, you lawyer you.

Mickey Quicknumbers wrote:There's nothing subjective about the grading (most of the time), but writing a law school exam takes a certain skill, and you don't know if you have that skill or not, that's the lottery party. Of course, you can practice with tests, you can improve your skills for sure, but just like any skill there are people who are simply more gifted than others and you won't have any clue where you stand until sometime in January of your second semester.


This makes much more sense. At the same time, it also does not allow one to draw the TLS conclusion to rely strictly on statistics in regards to telling people what they probably will and probably won't achieve in law school. That's all I'm really getting at!
Last edited by Lolek on Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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thesealocust
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:38 pm

Lolek wrote:
sunynp wrote:It is a lottery because until you sit for the exams and get your grades, you really have no idea how well you will perform.


Uncertainty about your performance on the test does not transform the grading process into a lottery. For you to have received a lower grade means that someone wrote a more thorough and correct answer than you. The amount of people that have done so will bring about your final resulting grade.

thesealocust wrote:Of course it's a matter of luck when you're talking to a stranger. Every single student will fall somewhere between the top 1% and bottom 1%. So if you, some shmuck on the internet, has a question about law school that depends on grades, I'm going to assume you could wind up anywhere in the class. Because you could.

As for you individually, there's only so much you can do to minimize the chaotic nature of law school exams and grading given that everyone else is trying hard too. You aren't the only one who has seen how grim this job market is.


Aha, I see. So you completely dodged my question and instead insisted on presenting random statistics that do not weigh in individual abilities but instead group everybody into the same individual with the same chances, and the same skill set.

Way to go, you lawyer you.


There are TONS of people who go balls to the wall studying and preparing and stressing in law schools only to obtain median or below grades after their first year. You can control what you do, and in theory you can control how well you perform, but it's a system that's far more chaotic and unpredictable than prior schooling. Smart, consistent, diligent people get below median grades. Every year, at every school.

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Lolek
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Lolek » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:42 pm

thesealocust wrote:
There are TONS of people who go balls to the wall studying and preparing and stressing in law schools only to obtain median or below grades after their first year. You can control what you do, and in theory you can control how well you perform, but it's a system that's far more chaotic and unpredictable than prior schooling. Smart, consistent, diligent people get below median grades. Every year, at every school.


I'm not going to say that someone will expect law school to be a breeze, but have you maybe thought of the possibility that those same people you claim drive themselves up Mt. Everest to study for finals and stress out during the process, help dig their own grave?

That's exactly my point, everybody is a different student. Some may need to study more than others. Some may need to study tons and do great, others may have to do the same but make themselves vulnerable in the end.

I don't see how telling someone: "lol Top 10% or bust you might as well not go" fits into the criteria of helpful advice, as if the professor picks people's grades out of a hat.

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Mickey Quicknumbers
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Mickey Quicknumbers » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:43 pm

Lolek wrote:
Mickey Quicknumbers wrote:There's nothing subjective about the grading (most of the time), but writing a law school exam takes a certain skill, and you don't know if you have that skill or not, that's the lottery party. Of course, you can practice with tests, you can improve your skills for sure, but just like any skill there are people who are simply more gifted than others and you won't have any clue where you stand until sometime in January of your second semester.


This makes much more sense. At the same time, it also does not allow one to draw the TLS conclusion to rely strictly on statistics in regards to telling people what they probably will and probably won't achieve in law school. That's all I'm really getting at!

Well that's your fault for taking those comments literally. About 90%ish of any given class takes practice tests before exams to get a feel for the test, so maybe to be more accurate: you have an 11.11% chance of finishing in the top 10%

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sunynp
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby sunynp » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:44 pm

Uncertainty means a person shouldn't chose a school expecting to do well. Such as going to a school and then expecting to transfer; or, going to a school that has terrible placement prospects and assuming you will be in the top 10%.

I think you may be reading the word "lottery" too literally. I also think that you ultimately will have less control over your grades than you think. I suppose if you do no work at all and never show up to a class with required attendance, you can control your grade to the downside. Just working (extremely) hard will not be enough to necessarily allow you to control your grades to the upside. Some people working extremely hard helps, others just burn out. Even others, like a friend of mine, never seem to study much at all, yet end up #4 in their class at Harvard. There are people who just get the law very easily.

Lolek: please revisit this thread in January of your 1L year, maybe then you will understand.
Last edited by sunynp on Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:45 pm

Good discussion of this topic in here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=148377

I think the consensus in there was just what Mickey said, you can't know if you are good at LS exams (a "unique" skill) before you start. A claim I'm not sure about as a lowly 0L. I will soon find out.

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sambeber
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby sambeber » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:45 pm

Lolek wrote:
thesealocust wrote:
There are TONS of people who go balls to the wall studying and preparing and stressing in law schools only to obtain median or below grades after their first year. You can control what you do, and in theory you can control how well you perform, but it's a system that's far more chaotic and unpredictable than prior schooling. Smart, consistent, diligent people get below median grades. Every year, at every school.


I'm not going to say that someone will expect law school to be a breeze, but have you maybe thought of the possibility that those same people you claim drive themselves up Mt. Everest to study for finals and stress out during the process, help dig their own grave?

That's exactly my point, everybody is a different student. Some may need to study more than others. Some may need to study tons and do great, others may have to do the same but make themselves vulnerable in the end. Telling people their chances of where they stand at a school should be left for them to decide, because in the end, some of these same people will wind up reaching their expectations.


The point is that how you do as in individual isn't the only thing taken into consideration when assigning grades. You can write the best exam possible for your skills, preparation and ability, but it's not assigned a grade in a vacuum. You have no idea how the exam-writing skills of your classmates will compare, and so to say your chances are "left for [you] to decide" is just not true as the grade you receive is not entirely within your control.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby stratocophic » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:57 pm

Protip: it's because a lot of people here think that scoring a 170 on the LSAT after an intensive 6 month study regimen, paired with their PRESTIGIOUS 3.6 GPA in women's studies from the 34th best liberal arts college in the northeastern united states (you don't understand, it was HARD and there was a curve and deflation!!!1!1!!), indicates that they're very intelligent. Having made that incorrect assumption, they then take it a step further and conclude that intelligence will determine where they'll slot into their class. Rather than expend the effort to screen out morons when giving advice, we just tell everyone the same thing.

Youroverconfidenceisyourweakness.jpg

Edit: some people make it through luck or guile, others hard work, others genius (or competence, possibly depending on the school). As has been said above, we don't know you and have no idea whether you have what it takes or will work hard enough to develop it if you don't. Also luck plays a sizable part for everyone but the people who have unassailable levels of the above qualities.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Glock » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:27 pm

Lolek wrote:
I understand the chance of being Top 10%, is 10%...but we're not robots who all write the same test 200 times while the professor draws a magical line dividing one random lottery of students from the rest. Someone, in the end, gets that Top 10% every year. Do you honestly think that this is a matter of luck? That that Top 10% at that particular school did not do better than the rest but instead had a lucky grade draw?




Most people here are talking about overconfidence going in. I want to address the system of grading, and the randomness involved.

There are very intelligent people that study their ass off, take practice tests, know everything, and have great outlines that end up out of the top 25% in grades after 1L. There are people that half ass everything (me!) and still end up in the top 10%. Why? First, there are very few grades that actually go into your GPA. Second, every professor grades differently and it is hard to anticipate even with practice tests. Third, curves have sharp cutoffs like you have never seen before.

With law school exams very small differences in work quality will have a larger effect on your final GPA than anything you have ever experienced. Good or bad outcomes on a single grade can cause a pretty wild swing due to hard cutoffs between an A and a B (or pluses and minuses). Just as an example, often curves will break across one point, meaning people at or south of a single raw point get a B and people north of it get an A. If you are just barely above the A line you win! Your comrades who did just slightly worse than you on a subjectively graded test get fucking pounded with a B. End up barely on top of that line a couple times and welcome to the top 10 baby. End up barely below that line and a couple times and welcome to median land. Huge difference in grade, tiny difference in knowledge/skill.

Professors grade in a wildly subjective and arbitrary manner, especially on essay questions. The way you say the exact same point as someone else will add or shave a few points, and see above for how big of a difference that can make. On the LSAT you bubble in a question. It is either right or wrong. On the essay question you can have an 8/10 answer to somebody else's 7/10 and congrats pal, you got the A. Why was yours an 8? The professor liked it more/sounded better/etc all in accordance with the professor's subjective standards. The other person may have actually understood the idea better- you just said it faster/clearer/more in tune with what the professor wants.

Grading curves are a fucking bitch. What you know matters very little. It is all about what your classmates know. I fucking hate classes where the professor is coherent because everyone else will understand the topic. Very small differences in raw exam scores will lead to huge differences in final grades. You thought the LSAT was bad with missing one extra question moving you from a 170 to a 169? How about one question on ONE EXAM moving you from a would-be total 1L GPA of 3.71 to a 3.61. At my school this puts knocks you from the 7% to the 16%. ONE QUESTION can do this. It is like nothing you have ever seen.

As a result, "luck" plays a pretty big role. You simply do not know where you will end up and cannot count on being the very top of the class, even with top tier preparation.

Do I think that you can maximize your chances at getting to the top? Of course. Do I think the 10% percent are smarter on average than the rest? Sure. Do I think the 10% percent prepared better, on average, than the rest? Sure. I would put my money on a gunner with a higher LSAT score than a slacker with a lower one. I imagine it like dice at a craps table. All of the preparation factors play in and stack the dice in your favor. The house has a clear and distinct advantage, yet players who are at the mathematical disadvantage win all the time. Gunners are the house. Given long enough they will be ahead, but across 25-30 graded units decided by like 8-10 tests anybody can come out on top. Too small of a sample, too many tiny variables that have a disproportionately large effect.

Before anybody accuses me of griping, I am well into the top 10% at a good but non-T14 school. I am quite sure than out of everyone in the top 10% I deserve it the least. I was certainly the beneficiary of luck, professorial arbitrariness, and being just on the right side of a hard curve.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Bronte » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:32 pm

OP, how would you recommend that TLSers begin factoring their prediction's about a poster's likelihood of success in law school into their advice to applicants? And on what would you recommend they base those predictions?

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Zazelmaf » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:50 pm

I don't think it's exactly a lottery, it's a lot more complicated than that. For example, there will still be slackers. And there will be people who are more concerned with looking smart than actually doing the work. For example, I had one guy in my class who sat next to me who was on facebook chat every single minute of every single class. I highly doubt (even though I could be wrong) he has the same chance of getting in the top 10% as the person who was devoted to excelling both in and out of class. If one is chatting instead of listening to the professor state what he is going to be testing on, one cannot expect to do well. Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:32 pm

Zazelmaf wrote:I don't think it's exactly a lottery, it's a lot more complicated than that. For example, there will still be slackers. And there will be people who are more concerned with looking smart than actually doing the work. For example, I had one guy in my class who sat next to me who was on facebook chat every single minute of every single class. I highly doubt (even though I could be wrong) he has the same chance of getting in the top 10% as the person who was devoted to excelling both in and out of class. If one is chatting instead of listening to the professor state what he is going to be testing on, one cannot expect to do well. Just my 2 cents.


lol, you don't even have to attend class to do well at law school dude. As long as you know what you're doing, 98%+ of the material covered in class is irrelevant to your grade.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Lawquacious » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:39 pm

Lolek wrote:I'm interested in this broad generalization of all 0L students as having the same ability when entering law school.

In other words, people always claiming that you should not enter law school "expecting" top rank. Why not?

I understand the chance of being Top 10%, is 10%...but we're not robots who all write the same test 200 times while the professor draws a magical line dividing one random lottery of students from the rest. Someone, in the end, gets that Top 10% every year. Do you honestly think that this is a matter of luck? That that Top 10% at that particular school did not do better than the rest but instead had a lucky grade draw?

I am fully aware that everybody goes to law school with the intent of being the best in the class (at least I hope), but judging them by how they were able to study for the LSAT as a valid precursor towards understanding the concepts of their law classes and doing well is not a good indicator of their possible performance.

Some people may understand things conceptually and apply them easily in law, others might have to sit there and memorize everything to reach a similar conclusion. We're all different. It is indeed hard to be at the top in a law class, but it is not something that you, as a law student, have no control over. Which many here seem to think is the case, throwing rankings around as if they are a lottery number.

Looking forward to opinions on this.


I don't know that most TLSers would say that it is a 'lottery.' But I do think many would agree that it is not entirely predictable by any means. I also think that if you have predictive numbers (LSAT and GPA) that are far superior to your peers that you are likely to come out toward the top. Likewise, I suspect that on average a person going in with subpar predictive numbers tends to finish toward the bottom (or around median perhaps). But even in these scenarios, I think that there are definite and regular exceptions.

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Kilpatrick » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:51 pm

Zazelmaf wrote:I don't think it's exactly a lottery, it's a lot more complicated than that. For example, there will still be slackers. And there will be people who are more concerned with looking smart than actually doing the work. For example, I had one guy in my class who sat next to me who was on facebook chat every single minute of every single class. I highly doubt (even though I could be wrong) he has the same chance of getting in the top 10% as the person who was devoted to excelling both in and out of class. If one is chatting instead of listening to the professor state what he is going to be testing on, one cannot expect to do well. Just my 2 cents.


I spent most of some classes gchatting AND listening to the professor. The other person I was usually gchatting with is also in the top 10%. Learn to multitask

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bk1
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby bk1 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:59 pm

Don't worry OP, I'm sure you're a genius of the law and will be top 1% at Fordham. I'm sure going there at sticker is not a risky investment for someone like you.

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heyyitskatie
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby heyyitskatie » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:09 pm

Glock wrote:

With law school exams very small differences in work quality will have a larger effect on your final GPA than anything you have ever experienced. Good or bad outcomes on a single grade can cause a pretty wild swing due to hard cutoffs between an A and a B (or pluses and minuses).

Professors grade in a wildly subjective and arbitrary manner, especially on essay questions. The way you say the exact same point as someone else will add or shave a few points, and see above for how big of a difference that can make. On the LSAT you bubble in a question. It is either right or wrong. On the essay question you can have an 8/10 answer to somebody else's 7/10 and congrats pal, you got the A. Why was yours an 8? The professor liked it more/sounded better/etc all in accordance with the professor's subjective standards. The other person may have actually understood the idea better- you just said it faster/clearer/more in tune with what the professor wants.

Grading curves are a fucking bitch. What you know matters very little. It is all about what your classmates know. Very small differences in raw exam scores will lead to huge differences in final grades. How about one question on ONE EXAM moving you from a would-be total 1L GPA of 3.71 to a 3.61. At my school this puts knocks you from the 7% to the 16%. ONE QUESTION can do this. It is like nothing you have ever seen.

As a result, "luck" plays a pretty big role. You simply do not know where you will end up and cannot count on being the very top of the class, even with top tier preparation.

.



It's even "worse" in schools that have tried to make things better by having some variation of the P/H system. The economy is bad enough so that your grades matter, and when a few points makes the difference between a P and and H or an H and HH, it ends up having a huge affect on where you stand in relation to your classmates overall, especially because you go into 2L fall interviews with only 6-8 grades overall (it was 7 for us).

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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby JusticeHarlan » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:51 pm

Mickey Quicknumbers wrote:There's nothing subjective about the grading (most of the time), but writing a law school exam takes a certain skill, and you don't know if you have that skill or not, that's the lottery party. Of course, you can practice with tests, you can improve your skills for sure, but just like any skill there are people who are simply more gifted than others and you won't have any clue where you stand until sometime in January of your second semester.

What he said.

I do think there are certain things you can do to help, like reading GTM or some of the better articles on how to do well on TLS, but that's going to be at the margins. At some point, everyone learns the basics (argue each side, understand how exams are graded, and so on), and from there it's about execution. And there's no way to know in advance how well you'll do, relative to everyone else.

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Talon
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Talon » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:04 pm

You can't know in advance whether or not you're going to do well in law school. During my first semester, I spent a huge amount of time studying and reading exam advice, I began taking practice exams more than a month before finals and had probably taken an average of five full-length, timed practice exams per course by the time finals hit, and I still had absolutely no idea how I did until all of my grades were in. The same is true for everyone else that I know; no one knew they would be top five percent, top quarter, median, or bottom five percent.

Although there's a lot of randomness in law school grading, you do indeed have a lot of control over it. But you cannot know now, as a 0L, how you'll do. And we, knowing nothing about you beyond what you post, certainly cannot predict how you'll do. So it's in your interest to operate as though you'll do average. Because odds are, you will.

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Bronte
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Re: Why does TLS generalize law school grades as a lottery?

Postby Bronte » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:21 pm

Talon wrote:You can't know in advance whether or not you're going to do well in law school. During my first semester, I spent a huge amount of time studying and reading exam advice, I began taking practice exams more than a month before finals and had probably taken an average of five full-length, timed practice exams per course by the time finals hit, and I still had absolutely no idea how I did until all of my grades were in. The same is true for everyone else that I know; no one knew they would be top five percent, top quarter, median, or bottom five percent.

Although there's a lot of randomness in law school grading, you do indeed have a lot of control over it. But you cannot know now, as a 0L, how you'll do. And we, knowing nothing about you beyond what you post, certainly cannot predict how you'll do. So it's in your interest to operate as though you'll do average. Because odds are, you will.


Well said. My only point of disagreement is with "odds are you will" do average. Odds are any given poster will do average, and odds are you can't trust your own judgment about your ability to beat the odds because you're biased. Thus, it makes sense for TLSers giving advice to assume you'll do average and for you to assume you'll do average so as to make more objective decisions about which law school to attend and so as to temper your expectations.




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