Now that the semester is over, the wait for final grades has started. But even once those grades are released, law students don’t always know what to do with them. If your grades are good, of course you celebrate—and if they’re bad, you may be depressed. But what do these grades really mean? How can you make sense of your law school grades and get the most out of them?
Exams are really just a means of assessing how you communicate information that you learn, and grades are one component of that assessment. I’ve previously talked about how you can use grades to get more out of graded assignments. Here are three more ways to get the most out of your law school grades:
- Grades can be a way of calibrating your own perceptions of how you perform on exams. Did you do as well (or as poorly) as you thought you did on your exams? If you didn’t do as well as you thought you did in your classes, you should consider whether you were overconfident in your approach to your exams. You may need to rethink your approach to studying and/or attacking the exam in order to obtain the grades you want. In contrast, some students beat themselves up about how they did right after each exam ends, but in reality they performed much better than they thought. Regardless of which type of student you are, you can use grades as a way of adjusting your own understanding of how you perform on exams.
- Grades can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses in taking exams. Look for patterns in your final grades. Did you do better on multiple choice exams that you did on essays, or vice versa? How did you do on exams in which time management was more important? What are the common aspects of exams that you did particularly well on versus those on which you did not perform as well as you had hoped? Understanding these patterns can help you create a plan for how to approach exams in the future.
- Grades can help you to evaluate particular test-taking strategies that worked (or didn’t work) for you. Sometimes students will do something during one exam that they didn’t do in other exams, and they get different grades based upon those different approaches. For example, did you outline before you started writing in some classes but not others? Create a checklist for one class but not the others? Hand write versus use your computer? Use highlighters to break down essay questions on only one exam? Think about any differences in how you approached exams from one class to the next, and see if there are any corresponding differences in grades.
One trait of successful people is that they are able to learn from past experiences and apply what they have learned to their future endeavors. Take an active approach to learning from your final grades, and you will be on the path to success!