Your law school midterms are a great diagnostic tool to measure how well your legal analysis skills are developing. Your midterms can tell you how well (or poorly) you are doing at issue spotting, how well (or poorly) you know the legal rules in a particular area, how well (or poorly) you understand how the legal rules fit together to form a united body of law, and how well (or poorly) you can perform a legal analysis of a factual situation and reach a well thought out legal conclusion.
In order to get as much information as you can from your midterms, you need to receive and fully understand as much feedback as possible on your midterms.
How to Get the Most Out of Different Types of Feedback
Feedback on your midterms can come in the form of direct comments on your midterm exam answer, a model or outstanding answer that the law professor makes available to everyone in the class, or comments the law professor makes during a one on one meeting with you to go over your exam.
First, read any comments that your law professor may have made on your midterm. Do you understand the comments? If not, you will need to tell your law professor that you don’t fully understand particular comments, and ask for a further explanation. If you did understand the comment, do you know what to do next time to improve your performance? If not, again, you need to ask your law professor what you need to do to improve.
Second, if your law professor provided a model or outstanding answer, compare that answer to your answer. In particular look for the following differences between your midterm answer and the model midterm answer:
- Did the model answer discuss issues that you failed to spot? This may indicate that you do not know some of the rules that you need to know for this class.
- Were the rules in the model answer significantly different from the rules you stated in your midterm? Did you miss an element of a rule or insert an element that does not exist in the rule in the model answer? Again, this may indicate that you need to improve your knowledge of the rules for this area of law.
- Was the model answer organized in a way that was significantly different from your answer? Were issues identified and analyzed in a different order? This may indicate that you do not understand how the legal rule fit together to form a united body of law. You may need to work on your course outlining and further develop your outlining skills.
- Did the model answer use facts from the midterm exam that you did not use? This may indicate that your legal analysis skills need strengthening.
Often, it is difficult for students to evaluate and figure out how to improve their exam answers on their own. Always try to schedule a one on one meeting with your law professor to go over your midterm exam answer. If you know what to say and what not to say to a law professor, you can get invaluable information that will help you improve your grades on law school exams.
What Not to Say to Your Law Professor
Never ask a law professor “Why didn’t I get a higher grade?” This type of question puts the law professor on the defensive and leads the law professor to believe that you are really only interested in arguing about your grades and not interested in improving your legal analysis skills. The limited amount of time you have with your law professor will be spent arguing about your grade, rather than focusing on how you can improve your legal analysis skills so you can get better grades.
What to Ask Your Law Professor
First, if you have any questions about comments your law school professor made on your midterm answer, ask those questions.
If your law professor did not make comments on your midterm answer, ask your law professor what was missing in your midterm exam answer. If you are lucky, your law professor will give you specific feedback on whether you missed issues, misstated a legal rule, failed to perform a complete legal analysis, or failed to make a well thought out legal conclusion.
Once you have heard your law professor’s initial comments, ask if your law professor saw any patterns in what you missed. You may find out that you consistently make mistakes in a particular area, such as issue spotting or legal analysis. You can then focus your efforts on improving in that area.
Finally, once your law professor has finished giving you feedback, ask if your law professor will make comments on your midterm exam answer if you rewrite it. Rewriting your midterm answers and getting feedback on your rewritten answers is one of the best ways to improve your law school exams.
If your law professor tells you that your legal analysis skills are weak, you may want to contact the academic support program at your law school or look into other sources of support. Learning and strengthening legal analysis skills may require more time and feedback than one individual law professor is able to give.
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Other helpful surviving law school posts:
- 5 Ways to Avoid Disaster the Second Half of the Semester
- How to Cram for Law School Mid-Terms
- How to Take Care of Your Mental Health in Law School
- How to Calendar Your Way to Better Grades and More Free Time
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