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« Money Well Spent in Iraq | Main | Perhaps my students agree with this diagnosis »

January 25, 2005



I quite going to my professors to look at my tests because it only convinced me of the utter incompetence of my professors. There's no way that Torts exam didn't deserve an A. And International Business Transactions guy isn't just older than dirt, he's clealry senile.

Iowa Law School Alum

Prof. Yin,

Although I agree that students generally don't take the time to adequately determine and then resolve their systemic exam taking mistakes, I think that it is often easier said than done. In particular, the fact that law school exams are generally administered once a semester per a course, have variation among law professors, and are not necessarily indicative of the material covered in the course (in my experience this was the exception rather than the rule).

While at Iowa, I found it was very difficult to find a consistent exam taking approach, especially where the Professors tested so differently. For example, in contracts we had a 8 hour take-home exam, in property, we had a 100 multiple choice exam, in another law school class, we had to draft a client memo and/or legal pleading. Thus, I found that feedback pertaining to one exam did not necessarily translate into something that I could apply going into a different exam.

Not to mention, there is such a variation in the way particular subjects are taught and then tested. The 1L courses seem to be testing for an understanding of theorectical legal concepts whereas the upper level courses exams to be more practical (i.e. writing and drafting actual legal pleadings).

Also, although I am interested in hearing your view on the subject, I wonder to what extent Iowa's mandatory curve (especially in 1L) courses actually drives the exam structure, content, and grading.

In essence, I think the challenge for current law students is to find exam taking consistency, especially where the exam process is very much inconsistent.

Tung Yin

Dylan: uh, yeah. You aren't the type to show up with a gun to your professor's office, are you?

Iowa Law Alum: You raise some interesting and fair points.

First, I hope it's clear that I'm not suggesting that every student would automatically benefit from reviewing exams. They may or may not. But someone who gets consistently lower than expected grades may, because the variability of type of exam isn't showing up in the performance of the student.

(As an aside, I think if a student finds that the type of exam has a positive correlation with his/her grades, that's relatively easy to fix, since you can always take classes that grade in the more advantageous format. I don't particularly advise that if it drives you away from certain classes, but it's obviously something that students already weigh.)

So, you are right that reviewing performance on an in-class essay exam may not be very useful for a multiple choice exam, etc. But there are only so many formats, and review of a set of exams in format X may be useful for subsequent exams in format X.

energy spatula

Prof. Yin,

I went to both the professors from whom I received terrible grades about the exams in question. In one case, the professor had "miscounted" my score by 10 points, which unfortunately didn't change my grade "letter" but did raise extreme doubts in my mind about his ability to grade carefully (the second time in two years I have found a significant grading error on an exam). The other professor told me "the exams were all really good, and were within a few points of each other, but there is a curve and someone has to be at the bottom."

I do absolutely look over my exams and try to learn from my mistakes, however, in both cases I *truly* thought I had done a passable job, and in the case of one professor, I had him last year, the exam was the same format, and I did great last year and terrible this year.

Further, I haven't consistently gotten lower than expected grades...last year I did fine, by which I mean "in line with my expectations." Anyway, just wanted to clear up that I did, in fact, make the effort to seek out my prof's and try to get some insight...I just didn't get much out of it, except "well, each professor expects something different and here's a big long speech about what I want/expect even though you probably won't have me again ever."



I am that type, but I always try not to behave according to type.

Just plain confused

Okay, didn't do too well the first semester of law school. Second semester, I read evreything, memorized rules, took expensive writing workshop classes, attended study groups, studied previous "A" papers, knew every issue on the test, IRACd, argued both sides, and still bombed.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? I've spoken with Professors in the past, took their advice, attended TA sessions . . . How do you know everything on the test, know how to write the test, and do everything they tell you to do and you STILL don't pass?

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