Silly me. When I started law school, I didn't know about the grading curve. Before you bash me, you must remember that I started law school before the Internet was widely used and I didn't come from a family of lawyers. Some of the privileged folks in my class started law school with the family's law library. That made me feel a little bit disadvantaged. But when I walked into Con Law and the Professor explained the Grading Curve, I felt a little worse off. I don't remember what the curve was based on, but I do remember it was in the low Cs. So, Let's say it was a 2.5 at my law school. It's my understanding that it varies greatly from school to school. So, my Con Law Professor gave the best explanation I've heard to date, so I'll reiterate it here:
Let's say I write the exam question and I spot 15 issues that I expect the students to discuss and IRAC. I start with that number. In the first exam I read, the student spots and discusses 13 of the 15 issues. I put a 13 at the top of the exam and I put that one on the floor. Then, I pick up the next, read it and see that this student spotted 15 of the issues. So I place that exam to the left of the other. Then, I read the next one, and that person spotted 10 of the issues. I place that exam to the right of the first exam. Then, I grade an exam from a clever and creative student that manages to spot two more issues than I did--17. I place that exam to the left of the 15 exam. Actually, I am pleasantly surprised by my students and I often grade exams and find that more than a few students spot legitimate issues that I didn't see. All of those exams go on the floor to the left of the the 15 exam, in numerical order from highest to the lowest.
In the end, I have a series of exams. 18, 18, 17, 16, 15, 15, 15, 15, 14, 14, 14, 12, 10. The students that spotted 18 get an "A" in the class. The students that spotted 15 get a 2.5 and the student that spotted 10 gets an "F". Someone has to fail when we use a bell curve. And most students will get a "C". That's the grading curve here at Fuck You School of Law.When he explained that to us, we were all a little taken aback. How can you get a 100% and have it result in a "C"? In college, when you study hard and you know your shit, you get an "A." Therein lies the false confidence that so many law lemmings suffer from. Before law school, so many lemmings were accustomed to getting the grade with some hard work. In law school, since you are graded comparably and not against a key--you have no idea whether you are studying enough or whether you know enough to get an "A" on the exam. After all, to know that, you'd have to know how much the rest of the class studied and how prepared they are for the exam. That's why law school is so cut throat. There's not enough room on the left side of the bell curve for everyone to do well.
Well, here's the deal folks. Because of tradition or reputation or some combination of the two, reputable law schools use a curve to grade the students and the curve can be around a very low grade. And even if it isn't, the bell curve requires that a few students get an "A," a few students get an "F" and many students get "Cs" or or "Bs" depending on your school's grading curve. So, because of the bell curve, and no matter whether the economy is thriving or dying, some students at every school are predestined to do badly. As you may recall from my previous post, your first semester grades determine your future as a lawyer. So, many of you will fail because the bell curve says you should.
Here's some GPA curves for those of you that are dying to know what grade you're most likely to get: