Days of reckoning: Law students prepare for tests to determine semester grades

Most U students are preparing for their final exams this week, but first-year law students have been preparing all semester for the next few weeks.

First-year law students’ grades for the semester are based on the grades they receive on their finals.

“Because we are only graded on the one test the whole semester, finals are always in the back of my mind when I am doing my reading or other assignments,” said Yvette Evans, a first-year law student at the J.S. Quinney College of Law.

Evans was the subject of a profile in the Chronicle this fall (“Dreams of the bar: First-year law student finds her place after years of searching,” Sept. 2).

She and her classmates will soon be tested on what they have learned in their first semester of law school.

Seminars on preparing for finals have been held since the beginning of the semester.

“The first week is dedicated to showing students good time management and, especially, studying skills,” said Debra Threedy, dean of academic affairs and professor of law. “Cramming does not work in law school, and it is important that they plan ahead and learn how to keep up their studying habits.”

Time management is essential, agreed Bob Adler, professor of law.

The exams are so important that students are also taught how to outline and format them, he said.

For example, students take a midterm on which they are not graded. It is handed back with comments so students can evaluate their performance in the middle of the semester and see what it is they may need to improve on before they take the final exam.

“I encourage all my students to take practice exams because I definitely do see change in the quality of the students’ work,” Adler explained. “A lot of students think it’s based in what is a wrong or right answer, but it is based upon what is the best argument and why.”

The practice exams for any particular course are offered on reserve in the library, and some of the questions are from past exams and include sample answers.

“It gives the students the opportunity to see what it looks like, and they also have the time to receive feedback and answers,” Threedy said.

Scheduling for finals at the law school is done differently than the schedule for finals in other colleges. Each final is scheduled at least six days apart in order for reading time in between. The week before final examinations is also dedicated to a special reading week.

“I have two finals and my first is an eight-hour take-home test,” Evans said. “The professor asks that we work on the exam for five hours, and then we are supposed to step away and come back with corrections.”

All the tests are open book and open note, but a lot of rereading is necessary to be prepared, she said.

“I feel as though I am as prepared as I could possibly be,” she said. “The professors’ doors are always open, and the students that are in my classes are all just as anxious as I am and willing to help if I need it.”

[email protected]