dazzleberry wrote:There's a definite level of arbitrariness to law school issue-spotting essay exams. Less so for multiple choice exams and short-answer exams calling for succinct answers.
It's clear enough that a professor with 70 students grading issue-spotting essay exams on tort law (curved of course), will, if forced to re-grade these exams at a later date, (say, 2 weeks after the first go around) grade many of these exams differently. So much is dependent on outside factors: the order in which the exams are looked at, the professor's mood, and so on.
I was shy of a an A/A- several times, and the response I got when I spoke to my professors was usually: "well, I already gave out all the xyz grades by the time I got to your exam, sorry." In one class a professor sent out a class-wide email apologizing for giving out a bunch of Bs, saying that so many students deserved higher grades, but that he was forced to give them lower grades because of the curve requirement. Now how's that for fairness?
So yes - there is an element of luck to receiving ideal grades on law school exams for many students.
That's interesting the professor would actually apologize. Do you atttend a T14? So, sometimes the order in which your paper is graded can determine whether you get an A/A- or B/B+? That's ridiculous!
I'll take pity on you and explain for real: What the above poster meant wasn't that the professor hands out grades in order based on when they graded them, he meant that the professor thought more exams near the top deserved A's than he could give. Professors grade exams blindly and then apply the curve. Only the letter grade is left; you don't have numerical grades, just A/B+/B/etc.
Here's an example. Assume that you're at a school where the curve is fixed and the professor can only give A-'s to the top 10% of the class, and at most one A. In a class of 50 students, that means the professor can only give 5 A/A- grades. The professor grades everyone's exams on a 100-point scale, and these are the 10 highest grades in the class:
The ones in bold are the 5 highest grades. Their numerical grades become A's; the guy with the 88 gets an A, while the four below him get an A-. The dude with the 87 gets the same A- as the dude with the 84. The fact that one was 3 points higher than the other gets forgotten; they both end up as "A- students".
But look at that poor guy who got an 82. He was so close to being in the top 5 exams, and so much closer than everyone below him. But he wasn't in the top 5 grades, and the professor must follow the curve. The curve says that only 5 people get A's or A-s, and the professor has 5 other people who get those. The professor likes the 82 exam answer a lot more than the other B+ answers, but the curve makes him give the guy with the 82 a B+. Mr. 82 gets the same B+ as Mr. 72, even though his exam answer was 10 points higher.
The professor talks to Mr. 82, and gives them a sympathetic answer. He says, "I gave out all the A's when I got to your exam." He means that he only had 5 A's to give out on the curve and they were already given to 5 other students with slightly higher grades. He thinks Mr. 82 had a great exam answer, but the curve and the 5 better grades means he's out of A's and A-s to give. He says, "I'm sorry." He feels bad for them, because they did well, and clearly better than the other B+ students, but he just can't give them an A.