Grades are Out – Now What?
Regardless of what grades you received, you must review your exams. This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice students receive in law school, yet many ignore it. Why? Students have lots of excuses, but none of them holds any water. Here are the most common excuses for not reviewing prior exams and rebuttal arguments to those excuses.
I'm happy with my grade.
Even if you got the highest grade in the class, there are lessons to be learned from reviewing your exam. There is always room for improvement. Reviewing your exam answer will help you pinpoint the areas where your analysis was strong and where it was not. You rarely remember accurately what you wrote in an exam, so it's necessary to go back and read what you actually wrote. Did your analysis sound strong? Was your answer as organized as you remembered it? Did you ramble?
I'm embarrassed about the grade I received, and I don't want the professor to know I did poorly.
Although grading is anonymous, after all the grades are in, professors get a list of their students' grades matched up with names, so your professor likely already knows how you did. Professors are impressed by students who are motivated to improve, and there is no shame in taking steps toward improving exam performance. Won't it be more embarrassing to continue making the same mistakes over and over again?
I don't have this professor next semester, so I don't need to know how to do better on his/her exam.
Regardless of whether you have this professor in the spring semester, there is much to be learned from reviewing your exam. The lessons learned can be carried forward to all of your future exams, regardless of what professor you have. In addition, you may end up having this professor again when you're an upper-division student.
I don't need to look at the exam because I know exactly where I went wrong.
Don't be so sure? Students are often surprised by what they learn in the review process. You may be certain that the multiple choice section of the exam was your downfall only to find it was your essay-writing that was weak. The process of reviewing exams is not fun (no one enjoys it), but if you honestly confront your weaknesses, you can make the appropriate changes in your study methods and exam-taking techniques that can lead to better grades.
Questions Frequently Asked About Reviewing Exams:
- How do I arrange to review my exam?
Check with the professor or his/her assistant to determine the exam review policy. Many professors will allow you to review your exam in their assistant's office. Then, after you have reviewed the exam, you can schedule an appointment to meet with the professor to discuss the exam. (If you've forgotten your exam number, ask the Records Office.)
- What should I look for when I review my exam?
If the professor marks points in the margins, pay attention to which paragraphs earned you points and which ones did not. This will show you where you were wasting your time and how you can better use that time elsewhere. Ask if the professor has a model answer. If there is a model answer, compare it, step-by-step, against your answer to see how your answer measured up. What issues did you get? Which did you totally miss? Which should you have given deeper treatment? Were there issues you discussed that were not in the model answer? Did you have problems with certain types of questions, such as multiple choice questions?
- Should I meet with the professors?
Yes. It is often helpful to talk to the professors to get an idea of what they were looking for and what they thought was important. Most professors will agree to review your exam before you meet to give you specific feedback on your exam. This feedback is invaluable. Take notes on this meeting.
- Can I challenge my grade?
Unless there is a mathematical error, all grades are final. Attempts to negotiate a higher grade will be futile. It is not unusual for students to feel angry with a professor or with the grading system in general if their months of hard work yielded an unsatisfying result. Just remember that the goal is to improve your grades in the future, and feeling resentful may prevent you from understanding the changes you need to make.
Now that you've reviewed your exams and seen what you did well and what needs improvement, you can begin to make appropriate changes in the ways you study for class and prepare for exams.