Law students around the country are returning to classes this month and getting scores back from fall exams. And we have been getting a lot of e-mails from concerned law students wanting to know what they can do to remedy disappointing grades from first semester.
Our answer is the same for every student. The first step is to collect your exams and get feedback from your professors about what happened (click here for questions to ask in your meeting).
Collecting your exams should be easy, but sometimes it is not.
We just heard a story from a student who went to the registrar to collect her exams (often the registrar will return printed copies of your exams) and she was told that circulating them was not allowed. Does this actually happen? Yes. Does that mean you will never get feedback? No!
Let’s be honest, not everyone in your law school is going to be as helpful as you would like. If you get turned away from the registrar empty-handed, you must follow up with your professors. There are two ways to do this: (1) You can send an e-mail and (2) you can go to office hours.
Some professors are terrible about answering e-mails. You likely know at this point whether your professor is responsive on technology. If you decide to e-mail your professor, ask to set up an appointment to talk about your exam. Note: You don’t just want to pick up your exam. You want to meet and talk about it. An exam paper without feedback is really not worth your time. (Sure, some profs write feedback on the paper but at times it can be cryptic or impossible to read. So try to actually talk through the comments with your professor.)
If your professor is terrible at answering e-mails, go to office hours this week. A professor’s office hours are not likely to be full this early in the semester, as classes are just getting under way. Besides, office hours are the time each week that professors have set aside to meet with students. It is part of their job. They are there for you. So go knock on the door, say “hello,” and get that much-needed feedback.
If your professor will only review your exam with you in the office but won’t let you take it with you that is okay. Just write down the feedback she is giving you during your meeting. It is the feedback, not the text of the exam, that is important.
I cannot stress enough how important these meetings with professors are for students. I know students who have learned a lot about themselves, their learning style, and how they want to study through such meetings. And you know what? Sometimes meeting one-on-one with a professor will help build a relationship that could serve you well in the future (it is great to network with professors).
Even if you did well in the class, get feedback on your exam.
If you got an A, congratulations! However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get feedback on your exam. You want to understand what went well (and also identify any mistakes, ones that perhaps didn’t hurt your score but can be remedied for future exams). And you would be foolish not to talk to your professor, because you know it will be a positive meeting. Who doesn’t want to listen to a professor tell you about what you did right!
The moral of this story is go talk to your professors. It is worth the time and effort on your part to reach out to them. These folks teach for a living. They typically like law students and want to help you. If nothing else, they get paid to talk to you. So stop by, say “hello,” and get all-important feedback so that second semester you can do even better than you did first semester.
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