Law School Exams

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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Man, final exams week is just a bonanza for law schools screwing up.

First, we had the Villanova debacle. Now we have another law school that should get an “F” in test giving (and we may well have more, similar stories coming later this week).

Keep reading to see which law school had a professor who reportedly gave students an “exam” cribbed straight from a commercial outline…

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Yesterday, we told you about how Villanova Law, a school still feeling the effects of a censure from the ABA for misrepresenting their class statistics to the organization, was having difficulties administering a 1L contracts exam.

Some people in Professor Joseph Dellapenna’s 1L Contracts class received the wrong exam, other students allegedly consulted their notes while the first mistake was being corrected, and it turned into a big mess. Villanova’s response was to void the essay portion of the exam for everybody, while preserving the multiple choice section, and making everybody “self-schedule” a retake of the essay section.

That was an unpopular decision.

Today, we have news that Villanova changed course. Now the dean is involved. But one wonders if the right solution might have been for everybody to suck it up and grade the original exam as it was taken, warts and all….

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We can argue about whether law schools should be prepared to help people get jobs. I mean, it’s not much of an argument, but some educators insist that helping students make good on their investment in legal education isn’t a primary responsibility of law school administration.

But surely we can all agree that administering exams is a huge part of running a law school. So why can so few schools do it properly? Honestly, why do we live in a world where people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal education, but when it comes time to take exams that will determine the job prospects of students, law schools routinely screw it up? Why is this even acceptable? Every freaking semester we have stories about schools that can’t get their acts together.

And today, we have another story. A story of an exam issue that seems so incompetent that it’s hard to fathom. A solution that manages the rare feat of punishing everybody, while not fixing the problem.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given that this school can’t even get its act together when reporting data to the ABA…

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