Now that grades have been distributed, many of you are wondering what went wrong and some of you are wondering what went right.
The big question is what to do now. There really is no way around it: You need to look at your exams. That may mean coming into contact with a professor who you would prefer never to see again, but that is the way to learn the most from the experience.
You may have a whole host of reasons why you do not want to meet with your professors. So, here are some rebuttals in advance to the top five most common excuses.
1. You are embarrassed.
- Keep in mind that most professors do not take your grade personally. You shouldn't either.
2. You do not want the professor to know who you are.
- The professor probably already knows who you are, and she will be glad that you are motivated to do better.
3. You just want to move on.
- Putting the past behind you is a good approach; however, you need to nail down what went right and what went wrong so that you can start this semester with a positive frame of reference.
4. You are sure you know which questions you did rotten on so "why beat a dead horse".
- You would be surprised at the number of students who are mistaken about their exam performance. You will not know for sure which questions you did well on and which ones you did poorly on until you look at your exams. Imagine how horrible this semester will be if the things you thought you did right, you did wrong, and you unwittingly repeat those mistakes.
5. The exam won't have any comments that make sense to me.
- Your exam may not have comments on it, but you can learn plenty on your own if you know what you are looking for.
What exams should you look at?
You should look at those you thought you would do well in but didn't, and, if you have time, look at those you did well in.
How do I go about it?
Check with the professor to find out his exam review policy. Some professors will let their secretaries give the exam to you; others will require that you come to their office to pick it up and return it to them when you are finished; others will require that you read the exam in their office with them present.
You also should see if your professor has a sample answer that you can review. Some professors will distribute the sample in class, and others might make it available in the Distribution and Copy Center. When viewing a sample answer, look at the exam in terms of content and style. Try to determine just what made the professor think that the sample was a good answer.
What to look for when reviewing your exam?
- Look at the point totals to see how you did overall. Did you have trouble with one particular question or did you perform fairly evenly on each question?
- Look for patterns. Did you do poorly on all first questions/last questions. Did you allocate time well, have initial jitters, or did fatigue set in?
- Are there certain types of questions you did better on? How did you do on the policy questions? The issue-spotting questions? Multiple choice? What skills should you concentrate on improving?
- Focus on content. Did you really know the law? Did you state it correctly and thoroughly? Did you apply the facts to the law? Did you come to a conclusion too quickly without first exploring all the possibilities raised by the facts?
Should you talk to your professor?
In most cases, the answer is yes. But, unless there's a mathematical error, don't think that doing that will change your grade. Your goal in talking to your professor should be to understand what you did right and what you did wrong--not to argue.
Before you set up an appointment to discuss substance, make sure you have read your exam and have formulated questions in advance. Check you answer against your outline to see if you can spot missed issues. Tell your professor which issues you found after the fact and see if your list is complete. Pick a question and describe the type of answer you gave. See what else the professor wanted in the answer.
What else should I consider?
In addition to reviewing your exams, you should also consider and critically evaluate your study habits from the previous semester. Take note of those study strategies that were effective, but also be honest with yourself and admit what did not work so well. Did you procrastinate or not manage your time well?
By closely examining and identifying those study strategies that worked well and those that were ineffective, you will be in a good position to adjust your habits. This will allow you to plan and implement new strategies and techniques that will help you succeed in the upcoming semesters. Try incorporating new study strategies into your course preparation.
What else should I do if I think I really bombed?
Talk with your advisor, the Director of Academic Success & Bar Support Programs, or the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Adapted by Larasz Moody from material provided courtesy of Tricia D. O'Neill, Director of Student Affairs, University of Maryland School of Law.