Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

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ksllaw
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Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ksllaw » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:37 pm

Given:

a.) Most law school class grades are based on exactly one end-of-the-semester exam (no other assignments)

b.) These exam grades determine your class grade and subsequent GPA and class rank

c.) Your class rank determines your ability to get "good" jobs

Do you think law school grades and people's law school outcomes are arbitrary - at least somewhat so?

I had this debate/discussion with three of my law school friends and graduates and some did feel that the process has some arbitrariness to it. Consider that you are only given one shot to show your mastery of the course material all semester long. ...You might know more and have deeper mastery of the material than your peers, yet you could easily get sick of few days beforehand and enter the exam functioning at less than your full capacity. ...You may have a professor who grades inconsistently and/or uses criteria that don't reflect your ability or even what is important in the course. ...You may anxiety mess with your performance... Or perhaps you are simply not as good with the test format as you are with other types of performance (such as writing a argument paper or doing an oral presentation, etc.)... Given that everything rides on that one end-of-semester exam for law classes and all the factors that could go in to making a person demonstrate less than what they are knowledgeable about and capable of doing, is the system:

i.) abitrary
ii.) in need of fixing

What do you guys think about this topic? What resources do you recommend for learning how to successfully take a law school exam. Thanks! :)
Last edited by ksllaw on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:26 am, edited 3 times in total.

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bk1
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby bk1 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:38 pm

http://www.top-law-schools.com/search-f ... x=0&sa.y=0

And hey, look it's me in the first thread posting in the law student forum as a 0L. :oops:

ksllaw
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ksllaw » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:45 pm

bk1 wrote:http://www.top-law-schools.com/search-forums.html?cx=000976267397368827681%3A3pksvmud5e8&cof=FORID%3A9&ie=UTF-8&q=grades+arbitrary&sa.x=0&sa.y=0

And hey, look it's me in the first thread posting in the law student forum as a 0L. :oops:


Heh heh. Thanks!! :mrgreen:

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ben4847
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ben4847 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:46 pm

It is easily proven to not be arbitrary, by the fact that you can see clear patterns in students' scores across classes.

Whether it is an arbitrary way to evaluate candidates for employment is a different question.

ksllaw
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ksllaw » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:51 pm

ben4847 wrote:It is easily proven to not be arbitrary, by the fact that you can see clear patterns in students' scores across classes.

Whether it is an arbitrary way to evaluate candidates for employment is a different question.



Yes, a good thing to start with is what we even mean by arbitrary.

lesananas
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby lesananas » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:59 pm

I dont think they are arbitrary in relation to exam performance. By that I mean, the people who do poorly generally had subjectively or objectively worse exams than those who did better.

That being said, I don't think grades are a strong indicator of how well you actually knew the material, or how "smart" you are.

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bk1
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby bk1 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:00 pm

ben4847 wrote:It is easily proven to not be arbitrary, by the fact that you can see clear patterns in students' scores across classes.


Maybe, maybe not. Some people with median grades at randomly end up with a high one (A+/DS/etc).

I can honestly say that if you went in and altered all my grades (either up or down) prior to me seeing them, I would not have batted an eye. That's why I think it's "arbitrary." I worked hard and consider myself relatively smart, but you're curved against a bunch of other people who are similarly situated. While I think I can be sure that I'd beat the slackers (bottom 10-20% or whatever), I don't think I can be certain that I'd end up better than 50/70/90/whatever% of my class.

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:16 pm

Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?

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homestyle28
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby homestyle28 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:24 pm

I think the credited answer is that it falls on the spectrum between completely random and totally objective. It's not like all your doing is writing some bullshit paper in your sophomore year about how pollution is bad. But it's also not like it's a math test with clear questions and answers.

It's not arbitrary in the sense that a well prepared student (who also tests well) is going to go in and get the lowest score, while some completely unprepared kid is going to go in and rattle on about something and pull a B+. That doesn't happen. But distinguishing between A- and B+ etc will all likely be subjective.

lesananas
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby lesananas » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:32 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?


you should probably have just stopped writing after "not in law school yet." Not only are law school and undergrad completely different, but law school exams and the actual practice of law are completely different. Unless you get a bad grade because you COMPLETELY missed the point (which applies to far fewer people than actually receive bad grades, thanks to the curve), you will probably be just fine practicing law. Adapting to new cases/clients is worlds different than adapting to each professor's exam and law school tests in general. (I'm a 3L and someone who had an SA at a vault firm this summer).

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:35 pm

lesananas wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?


you should probably have just stopped writing after "not in law school yet." Not only are law school and undergrad completely different, but law school exams and the actual practice of law are completely different. Unless you get a bad grade because you COMPLETELY missed the point (which applies to far fewer people than actually receive bad grades, thanks to the curve), you will probably be just fine practicing law. Adapting to new cases/clients is worlds different than adapting to each professor's exam and law school tests in general. (I'm a 3L and someone who had an SA at a vault firm this summer).


I wasn't implying a specific connection, or even a correlation. All I was trying to say was, the way you handle stressful situations in law school is indicative of how you handle stressful situations in general (even in the law practice).

And some people on this forum would disagree with you, since Law School is a ton of tedious work and Biglaw is a ton of tedious work, there is a correlation to success in both fields.

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ph14
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ph14 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:36 pm

Not arbitrary, that's just a myth for the most part. It's just on the curve so you might write a brilliant exam and get a low grade, because everyone else you are with wrote a slightly more brilliant exam. So it might feel arbitrary. There are some professors though with really weird exams, and I accept that these exams might be much more arbitrary than most law school exams.

lesananas
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby lesananas » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:40 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:
lesananas wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?


you should probably have just stopped writing after "not in law school yet." Not only are law school and undergrad completely different, but law school exams and the actual practice of law are completely different. Unless you get a bad grade because you COMPLETELY missed the point (which applies to far fewer people than actually receive bad grades, thanks to the curve), you will probably be just fine practicing law. Adapting to new cases/clients is worlds different than adapting to each professor's exam and law school tests in general. (I'm a 3L and someone who had an SA at a vault firm this summer).


I wasn't implying a specific connection, or even a correlation. All I was trying to say was, the way you handle stressful situations in law school is indicative of how you handle stressful situations in general (even in the law practice).

And some people on this forum would disagree with you, since Law School is a ton of tedious work and Biglaw is a ton of tedious work, there is a correlation to success in both fields.


You're right, in that how you handle tedious work will effect your ability to read cases/understand material and put in long hours in big law. you're wrong to assume that those who do poorly either 1) can't handle stress or 2) can't handle tedious work.

Doing poorly has little to do with comprehension/preparation/understanding/willingness to learn. More often than not it has to do with typing slowly, trying to answer a test question like you would in legal writing, over-thinking on the exam instead of getting everything on paper, etc.

andythefir
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby andythefir » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:49 pm

Not arbitrary in the sense that the same people tend to get the top exam award in multiple classes and another group of people tend to be at the bottom of those same classes. So As and Cs will have clear differences when you read them, as will B-s and A-s but B to B+, B+ to A- can get super arbitrary

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:50 pm

lesananas wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
lesananas wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?


you should probably have just stopped writing after "not in law school yet." Not only are law school and undergrad completely different, but law school exams and the actual practice of law are completely different. Unless you get a bad grade because you COMPLETELY missed the point (which applies to far fewer people than actually receive bad grades, thanks to the curve), you will probably be just fine practicing law. Adapting to new cases/clients is worlds different than adapting to each professor's exam and law school tests in general. (I'm a 3L and someone who had an SA at a vault firm this summer).


I wasn't implying a specific connection, or even a correlation. All I was trying to say was, the way you handle stressful situations in law school is indicative of how you handle stressful situations in general (even in the law practice).

And some people on this forum would disagree with you, since Law School is a ton of tedious work and Biglaw is a ton of tedious work, there is a correlation to success in both fields.


You're right, in that how you handle tedious work will effect your ability to read cases/understand material and put in long hours in big law. you're wrong to assume that those who do poorly either 1) can't handle stress or 2) can't handle tedious work.

Doing poorly has little to do with comprehension/preparation/understanding/willingness to learn. More often than not it has to do with typing slowly, trying to answer a test question like you would in legal writing, over-thinking on the exam instead of getting everything on paper, etc.



I never mentioned "willingness to learn". I meant how willing are you to adapt? How willing are you to adequately prepare? Change the way you think? Etc. And how good are you at it? Study smart vs study hard, etc.

lesananas
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby lesananas » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:05 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:
lesananas wrote:You're right, in that how you handle tedious work will effect your ability to read cases/understand material and put in long hours in big law. you're wrong to assume that those who do poorly either 1) can't handle stress or 2) can't handle tedious work.

Doing poorly has little to do with comprehension/preparation/understanding/willingness to learn. More often than not it has to do with typing slowly, trying to answer a test question like you would in legal writing, over-thinking on the exam instead of getting everything on paper, etc.



I never mentioned "willingness to learn". I meant how willing are you to adapt? How willing are you to adequately prepare? Change the way you think? Etc. And how good are you at it? Study smart vs study hard, etc.


You're splitting hairs a bit - willing to learn/adapt/whatever. I'm pretty sure the majority of people below median were willing to adapt and study and did so. I'll concede that if you did poorly first semester and were unwilling or unable to change any habits, then what you're saying might apply. But often grades are varied and you could use the same study strategy for two classes and end up with an A- in one and a B in the other. (Keep in mind most profs don't let you know how best to study for their exam before hand so often your best bet is to prepare for the 'generic' law school exam). That B generally doesn't mean that person can't adapt or isn't willing to adequately prepare, especially if half their grades demonstrate otherwise. You're placing WAY too high an emphasis on how hard a person wants it or how much they believe they can out-game a law school exam. The difference between an above median grade and a below median grade might come down to your computer freezing, your typing speed (which for some people will naturally be lower even if they try to improve it), getting a cold that day, etc.

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fatduck
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby fatduck » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:07 pm

RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?

just fucking LOL at the use of "Darwinian perspective" here

Gorki
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby Gorki » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:09 pm

fatduck wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?

just fucking LOL at the use of "Darwinian perspective" here


Yeah, spoken like a non-law student. He is getting jumpy in the trenches, ignoring the advice of people with the thousand-yard-stare.

On a personal note, idc what you want to call it but exams can be arbitrary.

For instance, the kid in my section that sunk an A in torts (pure issue spotting), B-'d Crim b/c he spent all his time doing Crim issue spotters and then the professor dropped 2 short answer Qs (Answer in 1-3 sentences) and 1 fact pattern that was limited to a rather small area of the law. Basically anyone who did not know that aspect the best (I think it was theft/burglary) was relegated to a B maximum on that test... All this professor's past exams were typical issue spotters.

RickyDnwhyc
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby RickyDnwhyc » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:14 pm

lesananas wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:
lesananas wrote:You're right, in that how you handle tedious work will effect your ability to read cases/understand material and put in long hours in big law. you're wrong to assume that those who do poorly either 1) can't handle stress or 2) can't handle tedious work.

Doing poorly has little to do with comprehension/preparation/understanding/willingness to learn. More often than not it has to do with typing slowly, trying to answer a test question like you would in legal writing, over-thinking on the exam instead of getting everything on paper, etc.



I never mentioned "willingness to learn". I meant how willing are you to adapt? How willing are you to adequately prepare? Change the way you think? Etc. And how good are you at it? Study smart vs study hard, etc.


You're splitting hairs a bit - willing to learn/adapt/whatever. I'm pretty sure the majority of people below median were willing to adapt and study and did so. I'll concede that if you did poorly first semester and were unwilling or unable to change any habits, then what you're saying might apply. But often grades are varied and you could use the same study strategy for two classes and end up with an A- in one and a B in the other. (Keep in mind most profs don't let you know how best to study for their exam before hand so often your best bet is to prepare for the 'generic' law school exam). That B generally doesn't mean that person can't adapt or isn't willing to adequately prepare, especially if half their grades demonstrate otherwise. You're placing WAY too high an emphasis on how hard a person wants it or how much they believe they can out-game a law school exam. The difference between an above median grade and a below median grade might come down to your computer freezing, your typing speed (which for some people will naturally be lower even if they try to improve it), getting a cold that day, etc.



Vitamin C? Geek Squad? Willingness AND Ability. Yes I am splitting hairs, but this is how I feel. Survival of the fittest and most resourceful.

I'm sure post law school I'll have the same opinion as all of you guys, but I want to enjoy my naivety while I can.

lesananas
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby lesananas » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:17 pm

Gorki wrote:
fatduck wrote:
RickyDnwhyc wrote:Not in law school yet, but I have a Darwinian perspective towards grades in general. Undergrad works in a very similar way(obviously not as arbitrary as LS); tests are usually a large % of your grade and some people are just not good test takers. Though I think for the most part that is just an excuse. I personally prefer essay questions to multiple choice, but it's luck of the draw when it comes to professors and their tests. Of course all professors will do things differently, just like every client and case you get as a lawyer will be different(unless you're working in super shit law obv).

I think the point is, how much are you willing/how apt are you at adapting to these situations?

just fucking LOL at the use of "Darwinian perspective" here


Yeah, spoken like a non-law student. He is getting jumpy in the trenches, ignoring the advice of people with the thousand-yard-stare.


Apparently reading Getting to Maybe is the equivalent of having a genetic trait that will ensure your continued reproduction.

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dietcoke0
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby dietcoke0 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:16 am

http://www.concurringopinions.com/archi ... _grad.html

An in-depth expo from a law prof how they really grad. It's shocking really how much even the weight of your ink matters.

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Bildungsroman
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby Bildungsroman » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:30 am

Assertion: take-home exams and other word-limited exams are much more arbitrary. And I'm not just saying that because I'm worse on them.

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rayiner
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby rayiner » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:56 am

You can think of arbitrariness as the predictability of grades at different points in 1L.

At one extreme, before school starts grades aren't very predictable. There is a loose correlation between LSAT/GPA and grades, but that is diluted by the fact that schools enroll students with offsetting qualities. People with higher GPAs generally have lower LSATs and vice versa.

At the other extreme, once you know some grades you can do a pretty good job of predicting the others. Here at NU (which the curve has a large standard deviation), someone in the top 10% might have mostly A's with a few A-, while someone at median will usually have a mix of A-, B+, and B.

I think prior to grades actually coming out, predictability is closer to the former extreme than the latter. All sorts of people end up with great grades. People who meticulously read the case book and people who just read supplements. People who spend all day in the library starting in September and people who start cramming in November. People who brief cases, and people who don't brief cases.

So grades aren't arbitrary in the most literal sense, because if you discover the winning strategy for one exam, and use it consistently, you'll generally do pretty well on all your exams. However, that's not much comfort because there isn't a lot you can do to determine if you've found the winning strategy until you actually take your exams and get your grades.

ksllaw
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby ksllaw » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:24 am

How predictive do you guys think law school grades are of future lawyerly success? Do those exams in law school encapsulate all that is essential to being a good lawyer?

If not, then are they arbitrary ways of measuring students' aptitude for legal work? ...maybe arbitrary isn't the best word here for this specific question, but more like are the exams "inept" for the task?

So, here, I'm no longer asking whether or not the grading and exam outcomes are arbitrary (in the traditional sense of the word), but rather whether these exams are good predictors of future lawyerly success? One would think that with such high stakes that the exams ought to be!

2transferornot
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Re: Is Law School Grading Arbitrary?

Postby 2transferornot » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:51 am

As arbitrary or non-arbitrary as everything else in life. (And I don't mean it as a snarky remark).




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