Panic! Exams! Oh no! Ahhhhh!

That’s basically sums up what NYU has been like for the past few weeks, and what it looks like the general sentiment/atmosphere will continue to be for the next 11 days.

Law school exams are scary, for several reasons. I’ve already briefly touched on some of them (I think) but it’s been on my mind lately, so you get to read about it again. Or skip this post. Whatever floats your boat. Anyway.

Reason #1 why law school exams are scary: The final exam is the only thing that counts towards your grade in the class. No one has midterm exams (that actually are worth a portion of your final grade). No one has homework assignments that are graded. No one has “participation” as a (significant) portion of the final grade. The most that any of those factors can do to help you is bump you (for example) from a B+ to an A-.

Reason #2: You have no idea how you’re doing in the class. There’s pretty literally next to no feedback. You do the readings, attend class, TA sessions and office hours. Ask any questions that come up. Write your outlines. Take practice exams. Discuss and compare with friends and the model answers (if they’re offered). Other than that, you’re on your own.

Reason #3: First year grades determine the jobs you’ll be able to apply to when you graduate. By the time you’re applying for jobs, you might have one semester of your 2L grades in. Chances are, though, you’ll be interviewing at Early Interview Week (more on that… eventually) for your 2L summer job. The vast majority of students (something like 80%) get offers from their 2L summer employer for work after graduation. And your 1L summer job (essentially based entirely on first semester grades) is a (largeish) factor in who wants to interview you for your 2L summer job. No pressure, guys.

Reason #4: No one will give you advice. Now, don’t get me wrong. We’ve had sessions with TAs and with the professors about what to expect, and sessions with the entire class and a panel of 2Ls or 3Ls and some administrators. But their advice boils down to “Do what you think is best.” Well you know what? I’ve never done this before. So I don’t now what will work best. “You do you” isn’t very helpful advice.

Reason #5: “You do you” is the best advice available. Seriously, comparing yourself to other people is just stressful. (Why do my classmates get Civ Pro. What in the world is the difference between the directness test for Proximate Cause, and But-For Cause? How do you know when a contract has bad enough terms to be unconscionable? WHY DOES EVERYONE ELSE KNOW MORE THAN ME?!) Everyone is just as stressed and confused as you are. (Or so they tell me.)

Reason #6: The tests are impossible. Our Contracts professor told us that on a test with 80 possible points, an A+ answer will get maybe 40 – 50 points. This is why we have a curve.

Reason #7: The curve is killer. There are 90 of us in my class. We all scored within a few points of each other on the LSAT, we all got honors in high school and college. We’re all brilliant. They have to differentiate between us somehow. Which means that tiny differences mean the difference between an “excellent” exam and a “good” exam. The upside to this is that the curve essentially stops at B-, so unless you really mess up, that’s the worst you’ll do. 

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