Myth of arbitrary grading.

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gonezo77
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Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby gonezo77 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:41 pm

Is anyone else tired of hearing that "law school grading is completely arbitrary?" After the first semester, to me, it seems as if everyone really was ranked almost exactly where they should be. Honestly, if you got all B's and C's, that's not arbitrary. For me, the only exception to this rule, and the victim to whom I give sympathy, is when someone gets close to all A's and has, say, one C.

I think that the common excuse "grading is arbitrary" is proliferated because quite a few students do not have an accurate gauge on their own writing skills, or lack thereof. Honestly, almost everyone knows the law by the time of the exam. Quite a few with an "undergrad" mentality think that this will be enough. When it comes to receiving a "more than average grade," being a strong, organized writer is definitely just as important as the substantive material.

Sorry about the rant. Fellow students drive me crazy.

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bk1
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby bk1 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:44 pm

When I hear people say that grades are arbitrary, I get the feeling that they mean "amount of time put in does not necessarily correlate with grades received" not that grades are truly arbitrary.

ETA: I am a 0L.
Last edited by bk1 on Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mbusch22
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby mbusch22 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:46 pm

I agree, but it's even more than just being a strong writer and knowing the law. It's also about nitpicking and going beyond the obvious issues, arguing both sides, and "thinking like a lawyer" so to speak. Also playing up what your professor wants to hear.

But otherwise I agree and that drives me a little crazy too.

cartercl
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby cartercl » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:48 pm

I'm interested in seeing where this thread goes once the current law students start commenting. I've been interested in this for a while now.

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Julio_El_Chavo
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby Julio_El_Chavo » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:54 pm

i got an A in one class and a B in another class. i approached both classes exactly the same way and spent about the same amount of time studying for both. i have no idea why i got an A in one and a B in the other. i felt like i spotted the same number of issues on both exams.
Last edited by Julio_El_Chavo on Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mbusch22
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby mbusch22 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:55 pm

cartercl wrote:I'm interested in seeing where this thread goes once the current law students start commenting. I've been interested in this for a while now.


"Current"? I'm a 1L. You must be a 0L.

Army2Law
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby Army2Law » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:56 pm

I think it's usually just people who are mad that the profs styled on their exams and median pwned them who give this argument.

I got exactly the grades I thought I deserved (within a half letter grade) for each class.

imchuckbass58
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby imchuckbass58 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:57 pm

I do not think grading is completely arbitrary in aggregate. I also don't think large differences in performance are due to the arbitrariness of grading. That is, as you say, people who get all Bs and Cs probably are less capable in the legal analysis department than people who get all As.

That said, I think individual grades can be arbitrary because of the inherent subjectivity of grading. It's quite common to hear stories of people on law review with almost straight As/A- randomly getting a B in class they thought they aced, simply because their style didn't jive with the professor's. Similarly, it's very hard to predict what your grades will be based on effort - I got my highest grades in the classes I studied least for, and my single lowest grade in a class I thought I knew back to front. Over the course of 3 years, this subjectivity evens and averages out, but in individual classes it can be true.

Similarly, I think people make too much of small differences in grading. The difference between being at median and being top third 1L year can be the difference between doing well or bombing one class (at least at CLS). I don't think the fact that someone has a 3.4 vs. a 3.3 means the latter is discernably less capable. If you're talking the difference between a 3.6 and a 3.0, then sure. But I think people object to the fact that firms will distinguish based on 0.1 differences in GPA, when really that's just a good or a bad day.

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Julio_El_Chavo
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby Julio_El_Chavo » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:58 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:I do not think grading is completely arbitrary in aggregate. I also don't think large differences in performance are due to the arbitrariness of grading. That is, as you say, people who get all Bs and Cs probably are less capable in the legal analysis department than people who get all As.

That said, I think individual grades can be arbitrary because of the inherent subjectivity of grading. It's quite common to hear stories of people on law review with almost straight As/A- randomly getting a B in class they thought they aced, simply because their style didn't jive with the professor's. Similarly, it's very hard to predict what your grades will be based on effort - I got my highest grades in the classes I studied least for, and my single lowest grade in a class I thought I knew back to front. Over the course of 3 years, this subjectivity evens and averages out, but in individual classes it can be true.

Similarly, I think people make too much of small differences in grading. The difference between being at median and being top third 1L year can be the difference between doing well or bombing one class (at least at CLS). I don't think the fact that someone has a 3.4 vs. a 3.3 means the latter is discernably less capable. If you're talking the difference between a 3.6 and a 3.0, then sure. But I think people object to the fact that firms will distinguish based on 0.1 differences in GPA, when really that's just a good or a bad day.


CR. This post gets truer as the quality of law school you're talking about goes up.
Last edited by Julio_El_Chavo on Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cartercl
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby cartercl » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:59 pm

mbusch22 wrote:
cartercl wrote:I'm interested in seeing where this thread goes once the current law students start commenting. I've been interested in this for a while now.


"Current"? I'm a 1L. You must be a 0L.


Wow. You're such a genius.

gonezo77
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby gonezo77 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:59 pm

Exactly mbusch. I did define "how to excel" a little narrowly in my previous post.

gonezo77
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby gonezo77 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:05 pm

Yes, chuckbass, I agree. I think the same concept you refer to in your post is what I refer to as the exception in the post that started this thread. This topic was more designed to complain about the B and C students who blame arbitrary grading for their scores. Or better yet, know that you did well, and still say the grading is arbitrary!

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kalvano
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby kalvano » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:07 pm

I can tell you that there is about 10% luck and 90% figuring out what the professor wants. I did OK, and I can tell you exactly what I messed up on the exams I didn't do as well as I hoped to on.

Arbitrary? Not really. Knowing the law isn't enough, it's being a picky bastard about everything.

The people who think it's arbitrary are the people who spent hours memorizing rules and BLL and wrote that on the test and got a B- and are pissed about it.

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holdencaulfield
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby holdencaulfield » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:12 pm

I have never been able to accurately guess my grade on individual exams. If if think I bombed, I usually do good and vice-versa. I felt just "meh" about my contracts exam and ended up with the 2nd highest grade in the class. Last semester, I legitimately thought I knocked the exam out of the park....turns out I got a B+.


That said, I don't think grading is arbitrary. I think there are too many things that can bring you down on an exam, and most times you will not realize you missed an issue or misstated something. I believe students just call it arbitrary when they don't understand why they did so good, bad, or average.

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mbusch22
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby mbusch22 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:16 pm

cartercl wrote:
mbusch22 wrote:
cartercl wrote:I'm interested in seeing where this thread goes once the current law students start commenting. I've been interested in this for a while now.


"Current"? I'm a 1L. You must be a 0L.


Wow. You're such a genius.


lol


I knew one class like the back of my hand and still missed the A, but nailed a few classes I disliked and/or didn't put as much effort towards. Kalvano's right, it's just figuring out exactly what that professor wants to hear, and spewing more of it than the people sitting next to you.

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BarbellDreams
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby BarbellDreams » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:21 pm

People who got good grades say its all skill and nothing arbitrary happens and people that got bad grades scream luck. Its just how it is.

FWIW The test I thought I CALI'd was my lowest grade and the test where I had a panic attack midway through because I didn't understand anything and I rambled for a long time I got an A on.

the lantern
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby the lantern » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:30 pm

The only possibly "arbitrary" aspect of grading, IMO, is the fact that good writers will score better than poor writers, all things being equal. I'm not necessarily the best brief writer, but I can kill it on a timed exam that you don't have time to review, edit, etc. Although I only know the grades of a couple of my classmates, I feel like they are pretty accurate for the most part.

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BarbellDreams
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby BarbellDreams » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:40 pm

Not necessarily, I think that all it takes is for a prof to have a huge fight with his/her wife/husband the day they are grading, be really pissed off and without noticing start grading people down. I am one of those that got good grades and generally say it has little to do with luck but even I admit I got pretty damn lucky, at least in one class anyway.

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thesealocust
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby thesealocust » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:11 pm

Two people who know exactly the same amount of law and spot the exact same issues can get two wildly different grades on an exam. There are real reasons why that have to do with how you write and analyze, but since there is no feedback (except the occasional midterm) in law school, it is very hard for people to perform consistently.

On top of that, small inevitable mistakes (misreading the fact pattern, having a small area of the law you're shaky on) can easily bump a grade down a notch or two even with otherwise strong performance.

None of that is arbitrary necessarily, because exams will get the grades they 'deserve'. But it looks, feels, smells, etc. extraordinarily arbitrary to those on the receiving end of those grades. Good friend of mine got a pile of As, a pile of A+s, and a below median grade. The exam produced all but certainly was graded fairly and without staircases or any arbitrary elements, but the process which caused that friend to kick ass and take names on every other exams but falter on that one despite very similar exams is... well, if it's not arbitrary, that's as good a word as any to use to describe what it actually is.

boooooooooo
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby boooooooooo » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:57 pm

I CALI'd several classes fall sem, and I will be the first to tell you it is arbitrary as heck.

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edcrane
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby edcrane » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:17 pm

During 1L, I think most of the variation in grades that can be described as "random" or "arbitrary" results from professors failing to test all of the subjects discussed in class and some fraction of students failing to prepare thoroughly. If students were uniformly thorough, limited exam coverage wouldn't matter. But in reality a fair number of students end up well prepared (sometimes overprepared) in some areas and underprepared in others, so limited exam coverage can introduce a measure of randomness into grades, particularly in the middle range (B/B+/A-).

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Veyron
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby Veyron » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:18 pm

bk1 wrote:When I hear people say that grades are arbitrary, I get the feeling that they mean "amount of time put in does not necessarily correlate with grades received" not that grades are truly arbitrary.

ETA: I am a 0L.


Wow, a credited response from a 0L!

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mbusch22
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby mbusch22 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:19 am

Veyron wrote:
bk1 wrote:When I hear people say that grades are arbitrary, I get the feeling that they mean "amount of time put in does not necessarily correlate with grades received" not that grades are truly arbitrary.

ETA: I am a 0L.


Wow, a credited response from a 0L!


No offense to the posting 0Ls, but when I was a 0L i don't think i had the audacity to post in forums for law students, more or less post my opinion.... but I'm seeing more and more of it. It's almost as annoying as undergrads using our library. I never would have done that. (I can tell you're an undergrad, i can see your sociology and psychology books with large pictures in them. Stop taking the good tables and talking about how wasted you were on thursday)

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fatduck
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby fatduck » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:20 am

mbusch22 wrote:
Veyron wrote:
bk1 wrote:When I hear people say that grades are arbitrary, I get the feeling that they mean "amount of time put in does not necessarily correlate with grades received" not that grades are truly arbitrary.

ETA: I am a 0L.


Wow, a credited response from a 0L!


No offense to the posting 0Ls, but when I was a 0L i don't think i had the audacity to post in forums for law students, more or less post my opinion.... but I'm seeing more and more of it. It's almost as annoying as undergrads using our library. I never would have done that. (I can tell you're an undergrad, i can see your sociology and psychology books with large pictures in them. Stop taking the good tables and talking about how wasted you were on thursday)


i post here by accident a lot because i really only browse via "view active topics" (and i suspect others do the same), but i get what you're saying

dakatz
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Re: Myth of arbitrary grading.

Postby dakatz » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:24 am

I didn't find it to be arbitrary at all. I took my first exam and knew I missed some major things due to nerves. I ended up with a grade just above median in that class. In my other 2 classes, I prepped much better and felt very comfortable on the exams. I got among the highest grades in both classes. I could have essentially predicted my grades almost exactly based on how I felt when the exam ended. Sure, it might seem arbitrary why someone got an A while someone else got an A-, since the differences may be subtle. But that's the end of the arbitrariness in my view.




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