Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
engineer
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:51 am

Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby engineer » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:42 pm

So I'm not really sure if I got screwed over... I did decently this semester in all but one class, where my grade in that class was 20 points below my average. I talked to the professor about it, and he told me that he didn't really spend too much time grading the exams, and admitted that everything I said was correct. However, he couldn't change the grade because of my school's insane curve & grade changing requirements (he probably would have had to invalidate grades for the entire class).

It's just really frustrating; I recorded lectures for that class (with permission), had a full set of transcripts, and it was even a take-home exam. Every question he asked was in the notes, and the exam was nothing special... it wrote itself. I asked him what I could do better for this semester, and he told me to "keep doing what [I've] been doing," which is such a cop-out.

So, what should I do? I don't want to get in a pissing match with this guy (which would inevitably happen if I went to the dean), but I also don't want to bend over and just take it. If I consider transferring, I feel like this could *really* hurt my chances, but I don't think it's significant enough to warrant any special mention in a personal statement/addendum/etc.

Should I just let the grade speak for itself as an anomaly? Has anyone else had grading experiences like this?

User avatar
Grad_Student
Posts: 367
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2007 3:20 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby Grad_Student » Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:53 am

Appeal to a higher authority.

engineer
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:51 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby engineer » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:06 am

betasteve wrote:DId you ask him what was different about the exams with the higher grades? If not, I'd start there.


We talked for about an hour, and I asked him every permutation of that question I could come up with. I wasn't able to get anything out of him other than advice to not be discouraged. He went on to say that, clearly, his exam isn't representative of my ability, and that it's a failure on his part... (?)

I left our meeting feeling slightly worse than when I walked in... I was hoping that I forgot to print out the last two pages or that I completely missed a point in the course, but after rereading my exam, asking my friends about their answers, and talking with my professor, I really have no idea how I got the grade I received.

caoyun
Posts: 190
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 1:03 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby caoyun » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:10 am

betasteve wrote:DId you ask him what was different about the exams with the higher grades? If not, I'd start there.


+1

OP, just because everything you said was "correct" doesn't mean that it was a good exam. Your analysis may not have been as thorough as your classmates. You may not have hit as many issues. Perhaps you didn't use authority as well as you could have.

Remember, its all graded on a curve so, in theory, you could kill an exam and be below median. Most of your classmates are going to be correct, too. You have to be more than just correct.

engineer
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:51 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby engineer » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:22 am

caoyun wrote:OP, just because everything you said was "correct" doesn't mean that it was a good exam. Your analysis may not have been as thorough as your classmates. You may not have hit as many issues. Perhaps you didn't use authority as well as you could have.

Remember, its all graded on a curve so, in theory, you could kill an exam and be below median. Most of your classmates are going to be correct, too. You have to be more than just correct.


Yeah, I'm aware of that point. It could very well be that there wasn't much of a difference between the best and worst grades, since the exam was really easy. Everyone in my section could have killed it, and grading could have come down to one or two points. If that's the case, then there's really nothing I can do other than, as the prof said, not be discouraged.

Ah well. It just sucks that I have that prof again for the second part of the course this semester, and will probably go through the exact same exam format once more.

caoyun
Posts: 190
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 1:03 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby caoyun » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:42 am

engineer wrote:
caoyun wrote:OP, just because everything you said was "correct" doesn't mean that it was a good exam. Your analysis may not have been as thorough as your classmates. You may not have hit as many issues. Perhaps you didn't use authority as well as you could have.

Remember, its all graded on a curve so, in theory, you could kill an exam and be below median. Most of your classmates are going to be correct, too. You have to be more than just correct.


Yeah, I'm aware of that point. It could very well be that there wasn't much of a difference between the best and worst grades, since the exam was really easy. Everyone in my section could have killed it, and grading could have come down to one or two points. If that's the case, then there's really nothing I can do other than, as the prof said, not be discouraged.

Ah well. It just sucks that I have that prof again for the second part of the course this semester, and will probably go through the exact same exam format once more.


From what I've heard, an easy exam can make for some really weird grades. Because its so easy, everyone hits substantially the same points, so it often comes down to superficial stuff like organization, method of argument, personal preference, etc. Hard exams are much better for differentiating students. There's not much you can do though. Law school grading is, I think, largely a crap shoot.

User avatar
apper123
Posts: 985
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:50 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby apper123 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:01 am

caoyun wrote:
engineer wrote:
caoyun wrote:OP, just because everything you said was "correct" doesn't mean that it was a good exam. Your analysis may not have been as thorough as your classmates. You may not have hit as many issues. Perhaps you didn't use authority as well as you could have.

Remember, its all graded on a curve so, in theory, you could kill an exam and be below median. Most of your classmates are going to be correct, too. You have to be more than just correct.


Yeah, I'm aware of that point. It could very well be that there wasn't much of a difference between the best and worst grades, since the exam was really easy. Everyone in my section could have killed it, and grading could have come down to one or two points. If that's the case, then there's really nothing I can do other than, as the prof said, not be discouraged.

Ah well. It just sucks that I have that prof again for the second part of the course this semester, and will probably go through the exact same exam format once more.


From what I've heard, an easy exam can make for some really weird grades. Because its so easy, everyone hits substantially the same points, so it often comes down to superficial stuff like organization, method of argument, personal preference, etc. Hard exams are much better for differentiating students. There's not much you can do though. Law school grading is, I think, largely a crap shoot.


Yeah, and I have a class this semester with, it appears to me, ridiculously easy exams. This unnerves me so much.

engineer
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:51 am

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby engineer » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:16 am

apper123 wrote:
caoyun wrote:
engineer wrote:
caoyun wrote:OP, just because everything you said was "correct" doesn't mean that it was a good exam. Your analysis may not have been as thorough as your classmates. You may not have hit as many issues. Perhaps you didn't use authority as well as you could have.

Remember, its all graded on a curve so, in theory, you could kill an exam and be below median. Most of your classmates are going to be correct, too. You have to be more than just correct.


Yeah, I'm aware of that point. It could very well be that there wasn't much of a difference between the best and worst grades, since the exam was really easy. Everyone in my section could have killed it, and grading could have come down to one or two points. If that's the case, then there's really nothing I can do other than, as the prof said, not be discouraged.

Ah well. It just sucks that I have that prof again for the second part of the course this semester, and will probably go through the exact same exam format once more.


From what I've heard, an easy exam can make for some really weird grades. Because its so easy, everyone hits substantially the same points, so it often comes down to superficial stuff like organization, method of argument, personal preference, etc. Hard exams are much better for differentiating students. There's not much you can do though. Law school grading is, I think, largely a crap shoot.


Yeah, and I have a class this semester with, it appears to me, ridiculously easy exams. This unnerves me so much.


What bothers me is that I got the 2nd highest grade on the "hardest" exam, yet the second to lowest grade on the easiest.... go figure.

270910
Posts: 2437
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 9:51 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby 270910 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:49 am

Life lesson: Professors can be very bad at articulating the differences between letter grades. I don't think you should infer from that that they are similarly bad at actually grading.

stjaba
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2008 9:35 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby stjaba » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:37 am

engineer wrote:What bothers me is that I got the 2nd highest grade on the "hardest" exam, yet the second to lowest grade on the easiest.... go figure.


Something similar happened to me. Of my three classes with essay based exams, I booked contracts, second highest grade in torts, then got a B-in Crim Law. I was left wondering, what the hell happened?

-Contracts and torts exams were graded as "point accumulation." Style/organization/format were irrelevant- what mattered was spotting the issues and analyzing according to the professor's grading sheet. You may get extra points for clarity, but that was it.

-Crim law was graded differently. The professor read the essays and gave a score based on the general feel of the essay. She emphasized organization, format, etc. She also took points off if you added irrelevant analysis. This is what really killed me- I lost points because I added analysis that was irrelevant, although it did state the black letter law correctly. Further hurting me was an extremely tight curve. My raw score was a 67, which got me a B-. An A was a 72.

Take away: This semester I will emphasize organization and clarity. With a tight curve(like you would see with an easy exam), you need every advantage you can get. Even with a traditional exam, organization could help make sure the prof doesn't miss anything.

gregw8705
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:02 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby gregw8705 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:59 am

Sorry for the long post, but this is my story of getting screwed by one professor:

Crim Law destroyed my GPA last semester because I had the worst teacher I've had at any level of education. The guy was so ignorant, I heard him explaining that the 3.3 mean curve, and this is a direct quote, "is not a mean, it's an average."

Part of his exam had us arguing on behalf of a character he introduced in a practice midterm we all took. In the midterm we were arguing as prosecutors, but this time we had to defend. He introduced some new facts about the guys mental health, mental deficiencies, and listed some crimes that D had been convicted of in the interim. The professor explicitly listed conspiracy to commit robbery as one of the crimes that D had been convicted of, and I dedicated a significant portion of my analysis to that crime. With the mental health and mental deficiencies he mentioned (inability to form relationships, lack of abstract thought, etc.) and D's original only tangential involvement in the crime (he copied some keys marked "do not duplicate" for the other Ds and the keys were never used), the mens rea and actus reus of conspiracy to commit robbery were ripe for attack.

I analyzed and attacked the conspir. to commit robbery conviction thoroughly, and, rightly, breezed through the burglary section. Common law burglary is the entering of a dwelling place at night with the intent to commit a felony therein, and prof told us repeatedly that the exam's fact pattern would take place in a common law jurisdiction. The crime in question took place in a business. I figured that part of analysis need only recognize the definition of common law burglary, contrast with MPC burglary, and identify that common law burglary doesn't work when you enter a business during the day. There's not that much more to it.

Well, I got my exam back and he had repeatedly crossed out robbery and written burglary over it. It's like he didn't even know what he wrote on the exam. He also seemed to suggest that my analysis of the conspiracy issue (thoroughly engaging D's capacity to commit all the elements) was, in fact, unimportant— despite the fact that without the conspiracy conviction D couldn't be held criminally liable for the acts of others. I wrapped up my answer to that question by analyzing the implications for D if he were found to be in the conspiracy, explained the felony murder rule and briefly analyzed whether or not conspiracy to commit robbery would meet the requirements of the FMR to uphold his death sentence, and tossed in a bit about legal problems with executing the mentally ill and mentally challenged— something we never discussed once in class and never read in our casebook— and he wrote in the margin that this section on FMR (irrelevant if conspiracy is successfully challenged) and executing the mentally ill/disabled was "all the relevant material" in my answer. I have re-read my conspiracy analysis, and it's sound. I knew conspiracy backward and forward, didn't just shotgun or regurgitate everything I knew about conspiracy, but applied the law to the facts that seemed to be begging for conspiracy analysis. He apparently wanted me to analyze a crime that wasn't even part of the exam and for which a two sentence paragraph would have almost sufficed: "Should D have been convicted of burglary? No, the sun was out and the building wasn't a dwelling."

GTM, LEEWS, everything I read, everyone I talked to, and every exam advice resource says, "Spot an issue your professor didn't and you'll get loads of points!", but it appears I got penalized because I spotted an issue he must have forgotten about between writing the exam and grading it. I'm even more bitter about it as I spent a couple minutes over the allotted time on Q1 because I thought I was owning the conspiracy stuff, and we spent TONS of time on conspiracy in class. This extra time on Q1 forced me to rush at the end of Q2 and some of that analysis suffered, but not enough to be single-handedly responsible for the grade I got.

Sorry that was so long, but I think the story shows 1) OP is not alone and 2) Law School grades may not be all luck but lots of factors besides preparation and ability determine one's grade.

ScaredWorkedBored
Posts: 409
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby ScaredWorkedBored » Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:48 pm

That happens on easy exams. Generally speaking, you don't want to see one unless you are maxing it out in raw score.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1394
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:56 pm

Sometimes, its a B because the professor said so. Essay exam grading is highly subjective, and an outlier, while painful, isn't worth stressing about if your other grades show a clear pattern.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1394
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Crazy fall semester grade [1L, rant]

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:13 am

stjaba wrote:Even with a traditional exam, organization could help make sure the prof doesn't miss anything.


How to organize a law school exam answer?

The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School - Written by Prof. Whitebread.

I KNOW the title sounds gimmicky, but this book was central to my success in law school exams. BUY IT, READ IT, FOLLOW HIS METHOD, and you'll do well. Works best for closed book exams, but I recommend this every year to all the 1Ls who come to the law review exam prep seminar.




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: lymenheimer, mselbz, TripTrip and 7 guests