ksllaw wrote:What about subjectivity in grading?
In undergraduate, it was commonly understood that in non-STEM courses there was some room for subjectivity in grading. Two profs. might grade the same English lit. paper differently.
...It wasn't like in math, physics, bio, engineering, etc., where you could either solve that differential equation or not. So, e.g., if two people both solved everything on their math exams correctly, then they could both get the 100. That's because there IS a universally acknowledged correct answer to those math q's.
But what about with law exams? Is there ONE correct answer you can give and everything else is incorrect? Or, does one have to argue a case for a particular position in which there is no universally agree upon answer? And if so, does subjectivity then creep into the grading process?
So the law can in most cases be broken down into rules that are implicated in particular situations (issues). The rules are broken down into elements. Elements may be governed by rules which themselves have elements. E.g. a contract is formed if there is: 1) an offer; 2) an acceptance; 3) consideration.
The fact pattern will implicate numerous issues. The issues are governed by rules. Specific facts in the fact pattern will be relevant to elements of the rules. So a fact pattern might mention that Sally accepted the offer by phone after Mary had mailed a revocation of the offer that had not yet been received by Sally. These facts "plug in" to the rule that governs whether contracts are formed.
The key to understanding how law exams are graded is to realize that the professor doesn't give a shit what your position is on each issue. He doesn't care whether you think the contract was really formed or not. What he wants to see is the analysis. He wants to see you recognize the issue, state the proper rule, and plug the relevant facts from the fact pattern into the elements of the rule. E.g. the fact that Mary mailed the revocation is relevant to the "offer" element of the rule, and the fact that Sally accepted by phone is relevant to the "acceptance" element of the rule. Neither are relevant to the "consideration" element of the rule.
How the professor grades is to give you a point for recognizing the issue, one for stating the rule, and one for each time you apply the relevant fact to the relevant element of the proper rule. If a relevant fact could cause an element to go one way or the other, then you "argue BOTH SIDES." Your final score is just based on how many points you rack up.
Law exams are almost always written so the issues cannot be clearly resolved. But the process is quite objective because you're not getting points based on resolving the issue, you're getting points for hitting the elements with relevant facts. There is a little bit of subjectivity in how the professor evaluates how well you apply the relevant fact to the relevant elements, but professors do not try to make fine distinctions. There might just be a couple of points for each element: you get the maximum for a really good application that clearly captures the subtleties of the element, and get zero points for not even realizing what facts are relevant to the element.
This is very different from an undergraduate exam where a professor is evaluating your essay holistically based on how well you support a position. You get a good grade simply by hitting as many relevant points as possible with credible applications of the relevant elements to the relevant facts from the fact pattern.