It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, I’m talking about grades. We’re already a few weeks into the Spring semester, so I know many of you if not all, have already received your Fall semester grades. I also know that some of you have been distraught over your results and have instead chosen to ignore them, in the hopes that this was just a one-time fluke that certainly won’t happen again.
Well, you’re wrong, ignoring your results won’t make the situation any better. In fact, actually facing your results and creating a plan to make them better will set you up for success in the future. So, if your exam results were not quite what you expected, take a day or two to cry and feel sorry for yourself. But once your pity party is over, don’t push those grades to the back of your mind. Instead, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and begin the heavy lifting that will turn those grades into A’s for your upcoming semester.
So, how do you turn those grades around? It’s quite simple actually if you just answer these three questions:
1. Where did things go wrong?
Once you’ve received your results make a note of the courses in which you didn’t do your best.
- If you’re a 1L, did you fall down in the essay portion of your Torts exam? Or was it the multiple choice portion of your Civil Procedure final that cost you the A? It’s important to make this determination, because oftentimes it may be the format of the exam and your limitations within this test-taking format that prevented you from achieving that top score. Recognizing this from early on gives you an opportunity to either improve on those test-taking skills or simply avoid those classes that require this format (I’ll speak more on this later).
- If you’re an upperclassman, at this stage it’s important to determine what kind of courses you lost points in. At this point of your law school career, you have a lot more autonomy in which courses you select. Oftentimes the course you selected may just not be your strong suit or perhaps it was an externship that was very time-intensive. This externship may not have been the best course selection at the time you were tackling a full course load, an off-campus job and your law school extracurricular (i.e. Moot Court, Law Review or Mock Trial). Making a note of the type of course you fell down in will certainly shape your course selection for upcoming semesters.
2. Why did things go wrong?
Did you not put in enough time to prepare for this exam?
- If you’re a 1L maybe you began outlining a bit late in the semester. This is totally understood because let’s face it none of us have any idea what’s happening for at least the first two months of the 1L fall semester.
- If you’re an upperclassman maybe you took on a bit more than you could chew. Make a determination about whether you have taken on too many activities that have begun to affect your law school coursework. Maybe you may need to cut back some hours at your off-campus job or maybe attending every law school party and being the last one to leave the bar on the weekends should no longer be a priority.
3. How can things get better?
Now is the time for you to put into action a plan to overcome all the issues you uncovered while asking yourself the first two questions within this exercise.
Although it’s still very early in the semester, now is the perfect time to plan ahead so that you can achieve success on your Spring semester finals.
- If you’re a 1L I have great news. You’ve made it through your first semester and you survived! So now you have a better understanding of what to do. So get started a bit earlier on those outlines and start getting those practice exams done as soon as possible.
- If you’re an upperclassman, between your law school courses, your extracurriculars, post-grad job hunting and just simply life. You have a whole lot happening. Therefore it’s crucial that you have a plan in place to properly manage your time for the semester.
Meet With Professors
Make a point to review your final exam with your professors. I would recommend reviewing your exam for every class, including the ones you did well in. This meeting gives you a chance to learn why you lost points on an exam and what you can do to improve. It also allows you to learn what you did right! When you get a high score in an exam it’s important to know exactly what you did that impressed your professor. As you move forward you can implement these skills on other exams.
Avoid Certain Classes
Sometimes you may just need to come to term with the fact that a certain exam format or a certain course is not your strongest suit. Therefore, it may be best if possible to avoid these courses throughout law school. As a 1L, when I met with my professors to review my finals I learned that I did poorly on the multiple choice section of my exams while excelling in the essays. This is a flaw that I knew I had even before going into law school and I knew despite my hard work I could only make minor improvements to my multiple choice skills. Therefore, throughout the rest of law school, I selected classes that either didn’t have a multiple choice portion or only had a multiple choice portion that did not contribute much to my final score.
Knowing exactly where I fell short early on, definitely set me up to be successful on my later exams. I hope it will do the same for you!
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Advice for Overcoming Bad Grades
- Dealing With Bad Law School Grades (podcast)
- How to Cope With Bad Law School Grades
- How to Right the Ship if You Are Struggling in Law School
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