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January 22, 2008
Learning from Last Semester’s Exams

Learning from Last Semester’s Exams

Even though fall semester has long since ended, you still have a lot to learn from those professors and your performance. Doing exam reviews with professors, although intimidating, is the best way to evaluate your actual performance.

You’ve had some time to reflect upon your grades from last semester. Whether you are happy or unhappy with the results, it is likely that you are wondering what you did right and what you did wrong. There is really only one way to get answers to these questions – review your exams and go over them with professors, they are the exam grading experts. Now that second semester has started, many students just want to move on and put the past behind them. Although this is a necessary approach to be able to focus on your new classes, you need to do these types of reviews in order to know what you did well and where you can improve for this semester’s exams.

Be very clear about the professor’s requirements. Some professors have structured dates and times when they will hold exam reviews with students. If you are unsure of a professor’s availability, send him or her an email.

Before meeting with the professor, try to carefully review your exam. Come to the meeting with only one thing in mind: learning from past experience and gaining from a professional critique of your performance. Don’t expect that this meeting will lead to a grade change.

Above all, take an active role at this meeting; do not expect a packaged answer from the professor, pinpointing your precise strengths and weaknesses. The following questions, if you ask them consistently, can identify trends in your exam-taking:

  • Did I spot the most important issues? Did I miss important issues entirely?
  • Did I clearly explain the law or sufficiently describe the legal standard?
  • Did I adequately explain exceptions and/or counter arguments?
  • Was my answer well-organized?
  • Did I thoroughly develop the analysis and application?
  • Did I explore the facts of the question in light of the legal principles and issues that I identified?
  • Did I merely state the “answer” in a conclusory manner?
  • What aspects of my exam were strong?
  • Did I show sensitivity to policy considerations and other underlying issues?






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