Final exams

Lawstudentcoach.com works one-on-one with students to produce an individualized game plan for exam taking — individualized to the student and to the professor. This article will discuss some of the things that a student entering the exam with a game plan will do.

Your exam prep has been completed. The day of the exam has arrived. Here’s how using a game plan will ensure success.

First, the game plan should be based on use of this professor’s prior exams and by examination of what skills this professor models in class. Based on that, the student should enter the exam with a list of issues and concepts that are most likely to be on the exam. Write that list before reading the exam, and keep it in mind as you read. This will help with issue spotting in two ways: (1) it will be easier to spot the key issues if you have them in mind as you read; and (2) if your first read of the exam question does not appear to raise some key issue or group of issues, you want to review the question. Remember, the exam is not just about answering the question. It is about answering the question in a manner that earns the most points.

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We talk about this twice a year. Sorry, I should say we are forced to talk about this twice a year. Every year. Because every semester, there are law professors out there who refuse to submit grades in a timely fashion.

I don’t know why. Professors have to work like nine or 12 hours a week, maybe eight months a year, and write a final exam and grade it. That’s what the students are paying them for. The rest, the research, scholarship, whatever glad handing they do on their path to tenure, is something they can do on their own time. On the student’s dime, they have to lecture, write exams, and grade them.

WHY DO SO MANY OF THEM FAIL TO DO THIS?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I may never know. Last semester, Columbia Law School threatened to fine professors who handed in late grades.

Columbia’s plan seems to be working, so maybe other New York area schools should give it a try….

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The train to crazy town is now entering the station.

I was getting worried. It’s almost Christmas, and I hadn’t seen one really good “law student meltdown” during finals period. Until today. Today, the good students at Brooklyn Law School provided me with my favorite semiannual experience of following along as a law student cracks under the pressure over email for every one to see. It’s like watching Gollum scamper out on screen and thinking, “Yes, this is why I’ve committed 29 hours to see this movie.”

Allow me to set the stage. It’s a three hour exam: one hour of multiple choice, two hours of essays. The exam is being administered in two different rooms. The proctors are supposed to collect the multiple choice section after the first hour. And that happens in exam room 601. But in exam room 603, the proctors don’t collect the multiple choice; instead, they leave it with the students as they hand out the essay section. So, arguably students in room 603 had two “extra hours” to fiddle with the multiple choice section if they wanted to.

And this caused one Brooklyn Law student who took the exam in room 601 to basically lose his freaking mind and try to start a grassroots campaign to get the multiple choice section nullified.

It’s pretty funny, in a “crazy person loses his s*** in public” kind of way….

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The only people who hate final exams as much as students are the professors who must eventually grade them. Some professors look at finals with open disdain. It takes them away from scholarship and they don’t even get the thrill of hearing themselves talk in a packed lecture hall.

Maybe it’s because so many professors hate giving exams that there seem to be so many screw-ups. Mistakes will happen, but often it doesn’t seem like schools have a clear plan of fixing mistakes in a way that is fair to all students.

NYU Law School has had its fair share of exam mishaps. It’s a long and embarrassing list.

But maybe NYU Law is finally starting to learn from past mishaps. Oh, the faculty still make mistakes when it comes time to administer exams, but this time the solution is that the professor is going to do extra work.

Then again, maybe it’s working extra hard after you’ve made an error that separates this famous NYU professor from the rabble….

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Ah, finals period, that wonderful time when all law students are crushed under pressure, and some of them turn into diamonds. Others just crumble. And still others take the pressure and sadness and turn it into a brilliant fountain of creativity.

Well, that doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, it’s pretty fun. A law student turned a case brief into a Night Before Christmas poem. It’s funny. I mean, it’s borderline insane to do this with a brief, but it’s pretty funny. Let’s hope our author backs away from the keyboard slowly…

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Party time?

It’s finals time already. For professors, that means another semester is in the books. Sure they still have to grade the exams, but that’s what stairs are for.

With their teaching duties done, the faculty at the University of Memphis School of Law decided to have a holiday party, with a band, in the reading room of the library while students were studying for finals.

Kind of brings new meaning to the term “tone deaf,” doesn’t it?

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Ed. note: This is the eighth installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan demystifies the law school exam.

The secret to doing well on law school exams is actually pretty simple: Deconstruct what you’re being asked to do, and then relentlessly focus on learning how to do it well.

No problem, right? So why does law school have such a ferocious reputation?

Several reasons:

1. Everything’s graded on a curve. Even if you do well, someone else might do better. You’re competing against all of your very smart and accomplished classmates, not just displaying your personal knowledge.

2. The pedagogy is weird. Unlike most undergrad classes, law professors won’t spoon-feed you what you need to know. You essentially have to teach yourself, and what you discuss in class often bears little resemblance to what you’re expected to do on the exam.

3. You don’t get any practice. Most law school classes only have one exam, so you don’t get the chance to practice before game time. There’s a lot of pressure, and not everyone can handle it.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

The East Coast clean-up from Hurricane Sandy is well underway. When reached for comment, the city of New Orleans said, “Clean-up? You guys need a wet-vac and you’ll be fine.”

In all fairness, you just have to look at the news to see how Sandy hammered the Northeast, especially New Jersey. Havoc abounds, and law schools in the Garden State are not immune from the disaster…

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How long does it take to do this anyway?

I’ve repeatedly said that law school faculty members need to do a better job of taking exams as seriously as their students. Every semester, we have a spate of stories about law professors who are too lazy to write novel exams for their students. And then, weeks later, we have to start doing stories about professors who are too lazy to grade their exams in a timely manner.

And you’ll note that I don’t think we’ve done a story on a law school giving anybody a refund because it couldn’t get its act together to provide deliverables to students.

Well, one law school seems to be willing to hold their faculty to a standard of basic competence. And they’re doing it the only way that it can be done. The school is willing to punish faculty — publicly — for late submission of grades….

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With all the freak-outs that happen during finals week, one might get a cynical view of how law students (and professors) handle stress. But despair not!

There is still this thing that exists called integrity — and sometimes, when people screw up, they acknowledge their mistakes, then try to fix the situation the best they can.

Today we have two examples, one from a frazzled SBA representative trying to manage peers suffering from caffeine withdrawal, and the other from a professor who spaced out when creating his employment law exam.

Keep reading for the details of the blunders, plus the (seriously) classy apologies issued by both individuals….

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