how does law school grading work?

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cherylann
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how does law school grading work?

Postby cherylann » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:27 am

Alright, I am sure I am going to get a plethora of negative comments regarding this post, but I just wanted to inquire how 1L grading works. You often hear people say, "not everyone can be in the top 10 percent of their class" and competition is just so fierce. However, dont you suppose that if someone treats law school like its more than their occupation, and past time and study every available hour that they have, 40-60 hours per week, and are in contact and seek advisement from 2L and 3L's who can provide insight to the type of questions likely asked and you study longer and harder than the majority of students do, that it isnt unreasonable to place in the top 10 percent of your class?

Yes, I realize that not everyone can place in the top 10 percent of their class, but those that do, cant some or the majority of that be attributed to how hard a student possibly works?

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WhiteyCakes
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby WhiteyCakes » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:30 am

In before the mayhem

TooOld4This
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby TooOld4This » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:32 am

No. For many people, law school is the first time they have been confronted with the fact that performance is not tied to hours worked. You will be in classes with people who just naturally "get it." They don't need to do much work relative to their peers because they naturally see connections between legal arguments and easily memorize rules. Lots of people who put in grueling hours never latch on to what is important and get lost in the weeds. In UG, there isn't generally a mandatory curve and profs will give As for obvious effort. In law school, exams are pretty much ranked against one another and your exam, that shows you did a ton of work, can be at the bottom because you didn't type as fast as your peers, weren't as creative as your peers, you missed a tough issue that enough other people caught, or you couldnt see the forest through the trees.

Oh, and in any class there will be more than 10% of the people working hard enough to be theoretically in the top 10%.

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cinephile
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby cinephile » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:37 am

Your classmates are your peers in every sense of the word. Imagine you're in a class with 90 clones of yourself. They have your same drive, dedication, and intellect. Now compete against your clone.

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northwood
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby northwood » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:39 am

its not about how much studying you do, how great you are in class, or how well you have prepared. Its all about how well you do on the exam. Professors dont see you studying, dont know whose writng what, and only have the paper, and their rubric and administer points. They will asume that the A's studied the most, were the most prepared etc.

Some schools have arbitrary grade cut offs. That means that most 10% of a class can write an A exam, 25% of the class can write a B+ exam, 25% of class can write a B exam, etc ( or whatever the curve guidelines are at your school. if you have questions, ask the prof) So while the top 60% of the class knows the law, the differences between an A and B exam, may not be that much.

That being said, grading can be a bit nitpicky. A lot of the classmates will spot the isues, and write the rule and elements. How well they articulate teh rule, and apply the elements to the fact pattern is different. that is where teh top grades separate themselvs from teh bottom grades, assuming everyone spotted the isues, and the correct rule/ elements. ( if not, well then that test isnt in the running for top grades). Determining how well the test is articulated, is up to professor. Some like a lot of relevant case law ( and a tie as to how its relevant), others want more a more policy oriented analysis. Others dont like policy, and see it as a mid exam fishing expidition- and will skim it. Some take points off for a mis applied case, or mis applied elements. Some professors like you to argue both sides evenly, while others want you to pick a side, defend it, and only mention ( and then defeat) a counter argument.

The difference between an A and a B+ can be as minimal a 2-3 sentences( this is a bit dramatic, but its to explain it better), where the A was able to get 5 points, and the B+ was not. What is needed to go in those two sentences depends on the professor's personal likes and dislikes ( which is why its important to pay attention to the professor in class- they may give you hints) Others will not award points, or take points away if you defeat your own argument ( or switch sides in the middle of the exam answer) Others dont care about wha side you pick, just want to hear both sides. Spelling and gramer can also play a role in deciding the grade.

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stillwater
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby stillwater » Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:57 am

cinephile wrote:Your classmates are your peers in every sense of the word. Imagine you're in a class with 90 clones of yourself. They have your same drive, dedication, and intellect. Now compete against your clone.


I dunno about this. I'd say most have the same drive and dedication- some outliers clearly do not- but intellect is a funny thing. There is a definite variance in this. Still doesn't negate the wisdom that going to school, working hard and finishing in the top 5% is still an awful plan.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Feb 17, 2013 12:24 pm

Sure, how hard you work can be part of ending up in the top 10%. But it's not guaranteed. The cliche is "work smarter, not harder," and there are a lot of things you can do that require spending a lot of time, but won't necessarily help you succeed (for ex. memorizing the details of cases - a lot of people spend a lot of time first semester doing this, and it's not generally that useful for doing well on exams). Plus, everyone goes to law school thinking they'll be good because they'll just work harder than their classmates. But everyone can't work harder than everyone else.

Hutz_and_Goodman
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sun Feb 17, 2013 12:37 pm

It's totally random. There is absolutely no way to predict how you will do, and even if your numbers are way above the 75th percentile it is a complete gamble and you have the same chance of being top 10% as the person who is paying sticker price and got the lowest LSAT in your class.

Basically, the whole thing about a correlation between GPA or LSAT and law school grades is made up, and the grades may as well be determined by a random number generator. If you attend Duke on a Mordecai or Columbia on a Hamilton, its important to realize that you have absolutely no greater chance of doing better than any of your peers, and you should expect median and you may end up bottom 10% or 20% regardless of how you prepare or how hard you work.

check my past posts for more info.

cherylann
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby cherylann » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:04 pm

I get now that law school grading is nearly entirely arbitrary and there are no guarantees of placing at the top or doing exceptionally well, but on another note, can some of the people that place in the middle of the pack, also be students that may not always attend class regularly and as such, have a slight disadvantage compared to those that are more attentive, and that the faculty get to know more on a personal level. Also, wouldnt it be beneficial as well, that if a IL knows or is friends with a 2 or 3L at the same particular school that did exceptionally well the first year or who placed near the top, couldnt that student even give pointers to the 1L in terms of what to expect most on a given exam with a particular faculty member or what they may be looking for most?

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hookem7
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby hookem7 » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:26 pm


Randomnumbers
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby Randomnumbers » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:27 pm

Pretty much everyone attends almost every class 1L. And most of them do all the reading, spend the time in the library, and talk to 2L's and 3L's about what to expect. And grading is blind, so knowing the faculty is pretty useless in that regard.

I don't really feel that the grading is arbitrary (depending on the exam format, some exam formats are), it's just that the work is completely different than what 1L's have previously experienced. You read cases, your professor spends the entire semester hiding the ball, and then you get graded entirely on applying law to fact.

Most people aren't very good at applying law to fact.

Grading feels completely arbitrary because there is very little link between time spent studying and grades. You can't grind law school very easily. It doesn't matter how many practice tests you do if you aren't applying law to fact properly on them.

You can spend your entire life studying, reading cases and supplements, and finding the perfect outlines. You've still got to compete with that asshole that reads 4 pages a minute, types 100 WPM, has an amazing memory, and just naturally gets it. And then you've still got the other 70% of your class that is doing the same thing as you are.

You may have been a special little snowflake in undergrad. You studied hard, you chatted with your professors, and you were smarter than almost all of your classmates. Congratulations - you are completely average here. Unless you've got some reason to know that you are going to be naturally better at quickly applying law to fact, you really have no way of knowing how you will perform in law school.

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sambeber
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby sambeber » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:36 pm

To respond point by point:

cherylann wrote:can some of the people that place in the middle of the pack, also be students that may not always attend class regularly and as such, have a slight disadvantage compared to those that are more attentive


They can be, but they aren't. At most schools, just about everybody goes to every class. Though some don't, the percentage is nominal. In addition, those people might not be going because they already understand the material and might do better than those who go. Or they just happen to be innately better at law school exams.

cherylann wrote:that the faculty get to know more on a personal level


Getting to know professors has virtually nothing to do with grades in 99.99% of cases (and that's being charitable). Search for "blind grading."

cherylann wrote:Also, wouldnt it be beneficial as well, that if a IL knows or is friends with a 2 or 3L at the same particular school that did exceptionally well the first year or who placed near the top, couldnt that student even give pointers to the 1L in terms of what to expect most on a given exam with a particular faculty member or what they may be looking for most?


This sounds good if you've never been to law school, but let me explain some reasons why it's not.

1. The assumption here is that you can find one 2/3L who did well. People don't talk about grades, especially outside of their friends. Good luck finding that person.

2. That person would have to have done well in every single class for this strategy to work. You've lowered your pool even further, perhaps to almost zero.

3. That person would have to have had the exact same professors as you. Throw into the mix subsequent sections having different professor composition from sections before them, and that means you'd have to find 4-5 people who did well with your professor, plus not having any visiting professors.

4. Professors change exam questions, obviously. This matters.

5. Even if all of the above works out, you still have to limit your stress, manage time, remember/find the material, spot all the nuance, write well, and hope that no one else did all of the above better than you. No 2/3L can help you with this.

The odds of your proposed strategy working are essentially zero. Let me know if that doesn't make sense for some reason.

cherylann
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby cherylann » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:45 pm

Thanks for all the helpful information. That makes perfect sense and I realize now that no 2L or 3L can really assist a 1L...that its arbitary or luck for the most part.

I have two further questions though.

1. How many students are in a particular section or law school class? Are they small (30) or some classes with (100)?

2. When a student has a 1st semester ranking of say 5% is that if the student receives A's in all 3 of their classes, since some classes make the A's only 5 percent (A- 's 10-12%) etc. Or is your ranking your ranking compared to all 1L students at the particular school (regardless of who is in your class/ section)?

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:49 pm

A very in-depth review of how law school exams are graded: http://www.concurringopinions.com/archi ... _grad.html

The TL;DR version:
Image

ETA: Didn't realize I was scooped on the article :cry:
Last edited by Richie Tenenbaum on Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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ph14
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby ph14 » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:49 pm

cherylann wrote:Thanks for all the helpful information. That makes perfect sense and I realize now that no 2L or 3L can really assist a 1L...that its arbitary or luck for the most part.

I have two further questions though.

1. How many students are in a particular section or law school class? Are they small (30) or some classes with (100)?

2. When a student has a 1st semester ranking of say 5% is that if the student receives A's in all 3 of their classes, since some classes make the A's only 5 percent (A- 's 10-12%) etc. Or is your ranking your ranking compared to all 1L students at the particular school (regardless of who is in your class/ section)?


It's not that it's "arbitrary or luck for the most part." It's that you have no meaningful way of predicting how you will do during law school before you enter law school.

And to answer your questions: (1) depends on the school. I get the sense that most 1L sections are generally large, from 60-90 people maybe. (2) Ranking is your GPA compared to your classmates, that is, against all other 1Ls at your particular school, regardless of who is in your class or section.

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mephistopheles
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby mephistopheles » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:51 pm

Richie Tenenbaum wrote:A very in-depth review of how law school exams are graded: http://www.concurringopinions.com/archi ... _grad.html

The TL;DR version:
Image



hilarious.

cherylann
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby cherylann » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:55 pm

Last question I have....promise. Its just I am unfamiliar with some of these things, which is why I have been asking in detail


Since your law school ranking (1L) is your gpa compared to all your other classmates, that could mean if you receive a 3.7, that you are in the top 10-15 percent of your class?

And when they have law school medians at a 3.0 that means if someone receives that gpa, they are in the top 50?


thanks for all the help

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ph14
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby ph14 » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:57 pm

cherylann wrote:Last question I have....promise. Its just I am unfamiliar with some of these things, which is why I have been asking in detail


Since your law school ranking (1L) is your gpa compared to all your other classmates, that could mean if you receive a 3.7, that you are in the top 10-15 percent of your class?

And when they have law school medians at a 3.0 that means if someone receives that gpa, they are in the top 50?


thanks for all the help


Yes. Depending on the curve 3.7 could be top 5%, top 25%, top 33%, etc. And yes, if the median is 3.0 that means that half the grades are higher and half the grades are lower.

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:59 pm

For a more serious answer:

There is no way you can guarantee that you will do well in law school, but there are things that can make doing well more likely:
1) Working smart--this will vary from person to person (as well as professor to professor), since some things work better for some people and some things work better for some professors. But if you're able to figure out what works best for you in terms of learning the material and learning how to take certain professor's tests, you will be ahead of most other 1Ls.
2) Devoting time to it. By no means is this sufficient (or even necessary for some people), but if you are working at least somewhat smart, putting in the time can help. (Of course, if you burn out halfway through the semester, that will hurt you more than help.) I've been able to do well in law school and a big part of that was I put a lot of time into it as a 1L and a 2L.
3) This has to do with working smart--but make sure you teach yourself how to take tests for all your professors. You can know the substance of a course better than anyone in the class, but if you suck at the format of the test, you're probably in trouble.

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hephaestus
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby hephaestus » Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:02 pm

cherylann wrote:Last question I have....promise. Its just I am unfamiliar with some of these things, which is why I have been asking in detail


Since your law school ranking (1L) is your gpa compared to all your other classmates, that could mean if you receive a 3.7, that you are in the top 10-15 percent of your class?

And when they have law school medians at a 3.0 that means if someone receives that gpa, they are in the top 50?


thanks for all the help

Yes. So in law school, the number really doesn't matter because of the curve. All that matters is your class ranking, or if your school doesn't rank, the band you fall into (top 10% / 33% / above median.

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hume85
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby hume85 » Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:30 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:It's totally random. There is absolutely no way to predict how you will do, and even if your numbers are way above the 75th percentile it is a complete gamble and you have the same chance of being top 10% as the person who is paying sticker price and got the lowest LSAT in your class.

Basically, the whole thing about a correlation between GPA or LSAT and law school grades is made up, and the grades may as well be determined by a random number generator. If you attend Duke on a Mordecai or Columbia on a Hamilton, its important to realize that you have absolutely no greater chance of doing better than any of your peers, and you should expect median and you may end up bottom 10% or 20% regardless of how you prepare or how hard you work.

check my past posts for more info.


OP, this post is a parody of posters who make arguments somewhat like this. He/she is mocking posters like cinephile.

Ti Malice
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby Ti Malice » Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:39 pm

hume85 wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:It's totally random. There is absolutely no way to predict how you will do, and even if your numbers are way above the 75th percentile it is a complete gamble and you have the same chance of being top 10% as the person who is paying sticker price and got the lowest LSAT in your class.

Basically, the whole thing about a correlation between GPA or LSAT and law school grades is made up, and the grades may as well be determined by a random number generator. If you attend Duke on a Mordecai or Columbia on a Hamilton, its important to realize that you have absolutely no greater chance of doing better than any of your peers, and you should expect median and you may end up bottom 10% or 20% regardless of how you prepare or how hard you work.

check my past posts for more info.


OP, this post is a parody of posters who make arguments somewhat like this. He/she is mocking posters like cinephile.


His parody is closer to reality than his actual beliefs.

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cinephile
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby cinephile » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:49 am

hume85 wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:It's totally random. There is absolutely no way to predict how you will do, and even if your numbers are way above the 75th percentile it is a complete gamble and you have the same chance of being top 10% as the person who is paying sticker price and got the lowest LSAT in your class.

Basically, the whole thing about a correlation between GPA or LSAT and law school grades is made up, and the grades may as well be determined by a random number generator. If you attend Duke on a Mordecai or Columbia on a Hamilton, its important to realize that you have absolutely no greater chance of doing better than any of your peers, and you should expect median and you may end up bottom 10% or 20% regardless of how you prepare or how hard you work.

check my past posts for more info.


OP, this post is a parody of posters who make arguments somewhat like this. He/she is mocking posters like cinephile.


I may have overstated things a little, but that's because what I said is by and large the truth. Sure there's a few people in the class on named scholarships. There are also a few people in the class who are here only because their parents are forcing them to be here/they don't know what else to do with their lives. But by and large the vast majority of your class does consist of people who are similar to you and that makes for stiff competition. So you beat out the stoner whose dad wants him to be a lawyer, that one kid doesn't matter. Assume you'll end up at median and pick a school where median has a good outcome.

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dingbat
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Re: how does law school grading work?

Postby dingbat » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:58 am

cherylann wrote:Alright, I am sure I am going to get a plethora of negative comments regarding this post, but I just wanted to inquire how 1L grading works. You often hear people say, "not everyone can be in the top 10 percent of their class" and competition is just so fierce. However, dont you suppose that if someone treats law school like its more than their occupation, and past time and study every available hour that they have, 40-60 hours per week, and are in contact and seek advisement from 2L and 3L's who can provide insight to the type of questions likely asked and you study longer and harder than the majority of students do, that it isnt unreasonable to place in the top 10 percent of your class?

Yes, I realize that not everyone can place in the top 10 percent of their class, but those that do, cant some or the majority of that be attributed to how hard a student possibly works?

I'm not sure if you understand how grading works, so I'll give an example.

Let's say there are 40 people in your section.
4 people can get an A or an A+
up to 6 people can get an A-, at the professor's discretion
up to 4 people can get a C+
2-4 people must get a C or C-

Everyone else (22-34 students) will get some variation of B, and typically the professor cannot exceed certain proportions between them

Now, of those 40 people, it's entirely possible that 10 are slackers, or bad students, or just don't get it, and they'll account for the Cs, as well as a couple of Bs

Now, lets' assume that 25 (half the class) are hard workers, but maybe not quite as hard-working, or not quite able to get stuff from upper classmen, or maybe just don't get it, so they get the balance of the Bs

Of the 15 students remaining, every one works hard, gets it, etc. But no more than 10 can get an A- or better.

That's the problem with the curve




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