Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Managing Expectations After Midterms

At UMass, we start our year quite early. Our classes are in session by the second week in August, so our midterms are early. Tonight is the midterm for my Property class, and students just took a Civ Pro midterm on Monday or Tuesday (depending on their section).

If you are at a school with midterms, you will see a shift after midterm grades are released. The cocky, swaggering students either fade away or become more forceful. The shy, withdrawn students who look like they would like to disappear become ghosts in the classroom or suddenly find their voice. For many students, the experience is disheartening and shocking. They have never seen anything less than an A, or maybe a B, and they are disillusioned when they see C's and D's.

I have a firm belief that one of the best things that happened to me in law school was a D on a midterm my 1L year. I received constructive feedback (that I was doing everything wrong, AND I misunderstood the rules) so I was able to fix my errors, and end the semester with an A in the course.

Students need to manage their expectations. Midterms are not:

1) A sign of your intelligence (or lack thereof). Law schools grade differently than undergrad institutions. Don't complain and pout; re-frame your understanding of A, B, C, D etc.

2) A signal that you cannot "do" law school.

3) A signal of your worth as a human.

Midterms should be framed as an opportunity.

1) Midterms let you know where you are misunderstanding the law. If you have misunderstood the rules, seek help NOW. Do not sulk, pout, blame, or hide.

2) Midterms let you know if you are using the right exam format. If you were disorganized, conclusory, repetitive, or underinclusive, seek help with ASP.

3) Midterms let are a fantastic opportunity to de-construct your teacher's testing format; use the midterm as a guide to studying for the final exam. (RCF)

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