FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING
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5. Students struggle with test-taking skills
Law school assessments also challenge first-year students. Most are not
accustomed to single-event exams that compose their entire course grade.
In addition, beginning students are also not familiar with traditional law
school essay questions, which require students to respond with legal argu-
ment, not merely legal conclusions. While many students have responded
to multiple-choice questions prior to entering law school, few have responded
to the analytically-focused multiple-choice questions common on law school
exams. As a result, unless the student has completed practice questions
and obtained feedback on his or her response, the student is likely to be
surprised by the questions that typify law school exams and the responses
their professors expect. In addition, too many students fail to grasp the dif-
ference between preparing for class and preparing for exams. Preparing for
class generally requires that students become intimately familiar with the
details of assigned reading. Preparing for exams, however, requires that
students engage in legal synthesis and legal argument, two skills that are
not frequently addressed or assessed prior to the course exam.
Even if a student has thoughtfully prepared for classes and exams, her
academic performance may be undercut by the quality of the exams them-
selves. Too few professors have the necessary expertise to ensure that
their exams are valid and reliable assessment instruments. As a result,
an exam may be inconsistent with content covered during a course, and
question ambiguity and subjective approaches to scoring may weaken the
exam’s ability to accurately distribute student performances.
In this portion of my essay, I have argued that students are generally
under-prepared for law school and that their lack of preparation is exhibited
by deficiencies in their knowledge base, work ethic, writing skills, and their
study skills. I suspect few would contest my argument and many could
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