Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
Indigo12
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 11:49 am

Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby Indigo12 » Sat May 09, 2015 7:14 pm

Had a 8hr takehome exam. 1 question had a word limit of 1200. I wrote 1900, figuring I'd cut it down later. I ended up not having time to cut it down so I submitted it as is.

The prof is a nice person (I mean more so than ordinarily). I've also seen professors literally walk out of the registrar's office with stacks of exams to grade on paper.

If he grades my exam on paper, there's no real way to determine where the 1200th word is. I guess he can eyeball it (12/19 = ~2/3rds). If he stops me at 1200 on the dot, I miss a few paragraphs that are not hugely important. But if he stops at 1210, or reads to the end of the paragraph where the 1200th word is located, I get in an important mention in those 10 words that would otherwise be omitted if he stops at 1200 sharp.

How have profs dealt with word limit enforcements? I've heard 1 prof explicitly say he'll stop reading at the word limit. But how does he know where it is on paper.

Or he could read the whole thing and then penalize me, or not penalize me. I suppose the only thing he can't do is "reward" me for those extra 700 words out of fairness to those who observed the word limit.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22805
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat May 09, 2015 7:30 pm

I don't think any of us can answer this question for you unless they know who the prof is and have had the same experience. If a prof wants to know what 1200 words is, they can estimate by counting a line or two, averaging, then multiplying by lines per page. But you're really asking people to read the tea leaves.

User avatar
retaking23
Posts: 453
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby retaking23 » Sat May 09, 2015 7:34 pm

I have heard of some legal writing profs who strictly enforce. As far as exams go, I don't know of any who enforced word limit but then again, I don't know of anyone who's written so much over the limit. If I had to guess, I would say it may hurt you esp since it's an 8 hour exam for which the prof probably expects a concise and polished product.

User avatar
sd5289
Posts: 1624
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:02 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby sd5289 » Sat May 09, 2015 7:37 pm

Nony is right that no one can answer this for you. All we can do is provide you with anecdotal info. Did this prof say what his/her policy was on the word limit? I've heard everything from "I'll stop reading at X word" to "I'll dock you one-third of a grade if you go over."

My only experience with this was with a Property prof who had a 2800 word limit for a 5-hour exam (ridiculous I know). I guess I was one of the few in the class who stayed under it. She knocked a lot of people down apparently, and told me she bumped me from an A- to an A because I "read and followed the directions."

User avatar
3|ink
Posts: 7331
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 5:23 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby 3|ink » Sun May 10, 2015 1:10 am

Indigo12 wrote:Had a 8hr takehome exam. 1 question had a word limit of 1200. I wrote 1900, figuring I'd cut it down later. I ended up not having time to cut it down so I submitted it as is.

The prof is a nice person (I mean more so than ordinarily). I've also seen professors literally walk out of the registrar's office with stacks of exams to grade on paper.

If he grades my exam on paper, there's no real way to determine where the 1200th word is. I guess he can eyeball it (12/19 = ~2/3rds). If he stops me at 1200 on the dot, I miss a few paragraphs that are not hugely important. But if he stops at 1210, or reads to the end of the paragraph where the 1200th word is located, I get in an important mention in those 10 words that would otherwise be omitted if he stops at 1200 sharp.

How have profs dealt with word limit enforcements? I've heard 1 prof explicitly say he'll stop reading at the word limit. But how does he know where it is on paper.

Or he could read the whole thing and then penalize me, or not penalize me. I suppose the only thing he can't do is "reward" me for those extra 700 words out of fairness to those who observed the word limit.

This has me scared. I did an 8 hour take home yesterday. I too had an extremely nice professor. But I didn't read the directions, so there may have been a word count. And I was somewhere around 16 pages before I stopped. I hope we didn't take the same exam (lawmaking).

User avatar
5ky
Posts: 6344
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:10 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby 5ky » Sun May 10, 2015 1:50 am

I had a professor with a word limit who said that he/his assistant would automatically trim the exams at the specific word limit before bundling them in a packet for him to read and grade, so he would only even see the words within the word limit, and wouldn't have any idea what came after. Not sure if that was true or he was using scare tactics, but I believed him.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22805
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun May 10, 2015 2:14 am

Yeah, if your school uses examsoft or some other exam software, checking the word limit would be really easy.

User avatar
rpupkin
Posts: 3864
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby rpupkin » Sun May 10, 2015 2:51 am

As others are saying, it really depends on the prof. I've heard of three approaches to dealing with students who ignore a word limit: (1) award the student 0 points for the answer, just as if the student didn't answer the question at all; (2) stop reading the answer at the word limit; and (3) ignore the word limit and grade the answer like the limit didn't exist. Any of these could happen in your case. I think most would agree that #1 is unfair to the student and #3 is unfair to all the other students that followed the directions. For that reason, I think most professors try to do some version of #2.

User avatar
chuckbass
Posts: 9957
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:29 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby chuckbass » Sun May 10, 2015 8:16 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Yeah, if your school uses examsoft or some other exam software, checking the word limit would be really easy.

Yeah this is how I would have figured a prof would do it.

User avatar
sd5289
Posts: 1624
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:02 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby sd5289 » Sun May 10, 2015 8:54 am

scottidsntknow wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:Yeah, if your school uses examsoft or some other exam software, checking the word limit would be really easy.

Yeah this is how I would have figured a prof would do it.


My school doesn't use an exam software for take homes. The timer starts as soon as we click into the file, and we have to upload a DOC with our answers into a "dropbox" before the time expires. I can't say using Word's word count feature is terribly difficult either, but can sometimes be confusing when you have a set word limit per question.

User avatar
Other25BeforeYou
Posts: 503
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 1:19 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Sun May 10, 2015 10:00 am

rpupkin wrote:As others are saying, it really depends on the prof. I've heard of three approaches to dealing with students who ignore a word limit: (1) award the student 0 points for the answer, just as if the student didn't answer the question at all; (2) stop reading the answer at the word limit; and (3) ignore the word limit and grade the answer like the limit didn't exist. Any of these could happen in your case. I think most would agree that #1 is unfair to the student and #3 is unfair to all the other students that followed the directions. For that reason, I think most professors try to do some version of #2.

My recollection is that (1) was a bit more common on take-home exams since the student would obviously have more time to go back and make sure they were within limits.

Following the rules is pretty important in law, and failing to do so is a good way to screw your client and get sued for malpractice. Penalizing people for failing to follow rules on an exam doesn't seem particularly unfair to me.

User avatar
malleus discentium
Posts: 878
Joined: Sun May 26, 2013 2:30 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby malleus discentium » Sun May 10, 2015 10:02 am

1200 words is about 5 pages, 1900 words is about 7 pages. The professor is going to notice.
In your case, I know you go to HLS and exam4 puts word counts on the first page of every exam, so the professor is doubly going to notice.
Anecdotally, I heard a professor told a guy in my section he knocked him from an H to a P because he didn't follow the word limit.
To anyone reading this thread in the future: Don't do this. Follow instructions.

User avatar
lawhopeful10
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:29 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby lawhopeful10 » Sun May 10, 2015 10:22 am

I could definitely see some professors lowering the grade because "following instructions is important." It does seem a little bit like a double penalty though since presumably while you were going over the word limit other students were improving upon the words they already wrote. I don't know what your teacher will do but I feel like the whole just stop reading once the limit is reached is a pretty fair way to do it.

User avatar
smaug
Posts: 12580
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:31 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby smaug » Sun May 10, 2015 10:25 am

Regardless of what happens, it is too late to fix it, so ignore it and carry on.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun May 10, 2015 10:52 am

Talk to Tom Trump Supporter Brady; he underinflated & you overinflated. In both instances, each of you had an unfair advantage. Fortunately for Tom Trump Supporter Brady & the Patriots, the game was over before the infraction was uncovered.

Indigo12
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 11:49 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby Indigo12 » Sun May 10, 2015 10:40 pm

malleus discentium wrote:1200 words is about 5 pages, 1900 words is about 7 pages. The professor is going to notice.
In your case, I know you go to HLS and exam4 puts word counts on the first page of every exam, so the professor is doubly going to notice.
Anecdotally, I heard a professor told a guy in my section he knocked him from an H to a P because he didn't follow the word limit.
To anyone reading this thread in the future: Don't do this. Follow instructions.


It's not like I thought "I hope he doesn't notice I'm 50% over the word limit!" It'd be one thing if I had been "merely" 50 words over, which is a typical "I hope he doesn't notice" situation.

If I'm 700 words over, I didn't go out of my way to flout the word limit. What actually happened was that I moved onto the next question and figured I'll use time at the end to trim the first question but I didn't have time at the end to do that so I just submitted as is.

Also, I don't know how your sectionmate can be so sure that he got knocked down to a P because he flouted the word limit. I'd imagine how he found out was that he visited the prof to ask why he got a P and the prof went "because reasons A, B, and C. And oh btw you surpassed the word limit" as a feather on the scale." But then in relaying it to you, the short version was "he said I went over the word limit" simply because repeating "I made mistake A in the proximate cause section when I said..." would just bore.

Also, I'm trying to think which of your Profs RL, BH, GF, or RS would adopt the "dock you a grade" penalty, which is more of a "rules are rules" mindset than "stop reading @ 1200." I'd say RL or GF, but the prof here goes out of his way to be nice, which lessens the probability that he'd adopt some of the penalties others here have deemed harsh.

User avatar
smaug
Posts: 12580
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:31 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby smaug » Sun May 10, 2015 10:44 pm

Seek help. (srs)

TTTooKewl
Posts: 95
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2014 8:03 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby TTTooKewl » Sun May 10, 2015 10:51 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Talk to Tom Trump Supporter Brady; he underinflated & you overinflated. In both instances, each of you had an unfair advantage. Fortunately for Tom Trump Supporter Brady & the Patriots, the game was over before the infraction was uncovered.


Well, except that the balls were discovered underinflated at halftime. Otherwise an exceptional analogy.

User avatar
rpupkin
Posts: 3864
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby rpupkin » Sun May 10, 2015 10:53 pm

Indigo12 wrote:Also, I'm trying to think which of your Profs RL, BH, GF, or RS would adopt the "dock you a grade" penalty, which is more of a "rules are rules" mindset than "stop reading @ 1200." I'd say RL or GF, but the prof here goes out of his way to be nice, which lessens the probability that he'd adopt some of the penalties others here have deemed harsh.

One of the nice things about teaching at HYS for a "nice" prof is that the prof doesn't have to give out a B- or a C. With rare exceptions, it's all Hs and Ps. Your professor can still feel "nice" while giving you a P, which, given the circumstances you described, is the grade you are very likely to receive here.

User avatar
Nekrowizard
Posts: 367
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:53 am

Post removed.

Postby Nekrowizard » Sun May 10, 2015 11:10 pm

Post removed.
Last edited by Nekrowizard on Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Indigo12
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 11:49 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby Indigo12 » Sun May 10, 2015 11:29 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Indigo12 wrote:Also, I'm trying to think which of your Profs RL, BH, GF, or RS would adopt the "dock you a grade" penalty, which is more of a "rules are rules" mindset than "stop reading @ 1200." I'd say RL or GF, but the prof here goes out of his way to be nice, which lessens the probability that he'd adopt some of the penalties others here have deemed harsh.

One of the nice things about teaching at HYS for a "nice" prof is that the prof doesn't have to give out a B- or a C. With rare exceptions, it's all Hs and Ps. Your professor can still feel "nice" while giving you a P, which, given the circumstances you described, is the grade you are very likely to receive here.


All I've said is I surpassed the word limit on one of 3 questions, which is worth 25-30% of the total grade. How does that translate to "I'm very likely to receive a P," unless he's going to actively penalize me instead of just stopping @ 1200 or the sentence/paragraph w/ the 1200th word.

If he stops at -literally 1200-, I suppose I miss an important one-sentence pivot. But otherwise, if the 700 words he'll remove are the last 700 of the answer, then I already answered basically the entire question in the first -1210- words.

After that it's just "here's a paragraph addressing fact X & Y because you obviously put them in there for reason Z. Here's another."

Yeah, I don't see how he's not going to notice even if there's not an explicit word count on the page. He's going to read a bunch of questions that are 5 pages long, and then your monster is going to pop up at him. Even if he's "nice" how would it be nice to the other students who followed the rules to read your extra words?
.

I'm not banking on him not noticing. Like I said, if I went just 25 words over, that suggests that I put my hand in the cookie jar and am just praying he doesn't notice. But for me to go 700 words over, then "lacking time to trim that answer" is more plausible than "I actively rebelled and went all 'rules? what rules?'"

Yea it wouldn't be fair/nice to the other students for him to "reward" my extra 700 words, but that still leaves him a few options mentioned already: 1) He tells his asst. to blank out the answer after word#1200 or read to the end of the sentence/paragraph (the majority [and I guess my preferred] position; 2) He reads some or all of the answer and actively deducts a penalty based on an ad hoc formula or %; or 3) Give 0 credit as if I wrote nothing because that's how "the real world" operates.

Others have noted that 3) is harsh/unfair, and it would mean that he values "do you know how to follow a word limit (yes, see questions 2 & 3)" infinitely more than "show me you took my class."

User avatar
smaug
Posts: 12580
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:31 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby smaug » Sun May 10, 2015 11:39 pm

Indigo this is the issue with your advice seeking: you ask a question, and when you get an answer that you don't like, you try to argue with people about it instead of thinking about it.

Here's the thing: arguments you militate in your favor here will do nothing. Arguments we make to convince you that you're probably going to get a P similarly will do nothing.

Your grade will be what it will be.

Report back when you can prove us haters wrong.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22805
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon May 11, 2015 12:02 am

Not to pile on, but you are way overthinking this. Your argument about the difference between going over 25 words and going over 700 words is overcomplicated and assumes your professor is reading your mind, thinks the same way about going over that you do, or even cares why you went over. It doesn't matter whether you went over because you consciously flouted the rules, or because you made some kind of mistake. You went over. Since the prof imposed a word limit, they likely care when people don't follow it. What exactly they will do, none of us can tell you,and you can't change anything now.

I think 0 credit for the question is pretty unlikely, but again, none of us know what he's going to do. You need go to do something completely unrelated to law school (or study for your other finals, if you're not done yet), and forget about this.

User avatar
Other25BeforeYou
Posts: 503
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 1:19 pm

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Mon May 11, 2015 7:49 am

Indigo12 wrote:I'm not banking on him not noticing. Like I said, if I went just 25 words over, that suggests that I put my hand in the cookie jar and am just praying he doesn't notice. But for me to go 700 words over, then "lacking time to trim that answer" is more plausible than "I actively rebelled and went all 'rules? what rules?'"

Yea it wouldn't be fair/nice to the other students for him to "reward" my extra 700 words, but that still leaves him a few options mentioned already: 1) He tells his asst. to blank out the answer after word#1200 or read to the end of the sentence/paragraph (the majority [and I guess my preferred] position; 2) He reads some or all of the answer and actively deducts a penalty based on an ad hoc formula or %; or 3) Give 0 credit as if I wrote nothing because that's how "the real world" operates.

Others have noted that 3) is harsh/unfair, and it would mean that he values "do you know how to follow a word limit (yes, see questions 2 & 3)" infinitely more than "show me you took my class."

"Lacking time to trim the answer" is never going to be a professor's first assumption on an eight-hour take home exam. Sorry. The whole reason you get twice as much time as a normal exam and word limits is that the professor assumes that will be plenty of time for you to edit and organize your responses so that they are clear and concise. It will look much more like you were flouting the rules.

User avatar
zworykin
Posts: 449
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 4:18 am

Re: Penalties for Going Over Word Limit?

Postby zworykin » Mon May 11, 2015 10:44 pm

Other25BeforeYou wrote:
Indigo12 wrote:I'm not banking on him not noticing. Like I said, if I went just 25 words over, that suggests that I put my hand in the cookie jar and am just praying he doesn't notice. But for me to go 700 words over, then "lacking time to trim that answer" is more plausible than "I actively rebelled and went all 'rules? what rules?'"

Yea it wouldn't be fair/nice to the other students for him to "reward" my extra 700 words, but that still leaves him a few options mentioned already: 1) He tells his asst. to blank out the answer after word#1200 or read to the end of the sentence/paragraph (the majority [and I guess my preferred] position; 2) He reads some or all of the answer and actively deducts a penalty based on an ad hoc formula or %; or 3) Give 0 credit as if I wrote nothing because that's how "the real world" operates.

Others have noted that 3) is harsh/unfair, and it would mean that he values "do you know how to follow a word limit (yes, see questions 2 & 3)" infinitely more than "show me you took my class."

"Lacking time to trim the answer" is never going to be a professor's first assumption on an eight-hour take home exam. Sorry. The whole reason you get twice as much time as a normal exam and word limits is that the professor assumes that will be plenty of time for you to edit and organize your responses so that they are clear and concise. It will look much more like you were flouting the rules.


Besides which, I would probably assume 25 words over was a "ran out of trimming time" issue. But 700 words? 1900 down to 1200? Removing 37% of what you wrote? That isn't trimming, that's major surgery. If I saw that, I would think "didn't notice that there was a word limit."




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: cdotson2, Itwasluck and 10 guests