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The Law School Curve: Understanding the Grading Policy

Most law schools grade on a “curve.” This means that the grades that students earn on law school exams are adjusted in some mathematical manner to achieve the desired grade distribution.   With a grade curve system there is a permitted range of each letter grade that the professor will award for each exam or paper.   For example, for any particular class the curve policy may dictate that only 2% of the class may receive A’s, 10% B’s, 50% C’s, 30% D’s and 8% F’s. Thus, regardless of the actual, raw student scores, where there is a mandatory curve each student’s grade would be adjusted based on the curve. When a curve is applied, it will be impossible for everyone to get A’s or for everyone to fail.


Why do law schools have curves?

There are many reasons to have a grading curve. Some schools use curves to intensify the level of competitiveness among students. When A’s are severely rationed, students must fight harder to get them, since merely getting an A may not mean that the student will really get an A.   Only the absolutely top students will be get the highest grades and academic distinctions that go along with them. Other schools are more liberal in giving out higher grades in order to ensure that students maintain scholarships.


Why should students care?

It may be wise for prospective students to know the grading policy of each school they are considering.   Many schools publish their grading policy including their curves. Law school grades matter. Most potential employers consider grades in making hiring decisions.   In addition, students who have scholarships are usually required to maintain a certain GPA or class ranking in order to retain those scholarships.   If based on its grading policy a school is particularly stingy about handing out As and Bs, it is a good idea for prospective students to know this in advance and factor it into the decision making process.


How can students stay ahead of the curve?

The only way for the curve not to have a detrimental impact on a student’s grades is to do well– extremely well. This means that students must implement strategies to ensure they will do well from the first day of the semester to exam time. For example, to be successful in law school you must prepare for class each day, outline cases, and understand how to do well on a law school exam. Tap into all available resources that will help you gain a competitive edge. This includes asking professors questions, joining study groups, and minimize distractions!


Remember, law school is different from college. Know what you are getting into and plan for success.


This article was written by FindMyLawTutor.com.

Visit us at www.findmylawtutor.com for Help with LSAT Practice Problems and Tutoring, Law School Admissions and Assistance, and Bar Exam Preparation. Our website matches LSAT, Law School, and Bar Tutors with students and legal study materials– Providing Law Students with Help with Legal Exams.

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