How will the coronavirus impact law school final exams?
Law students are asking many questions during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, one of which is how law school final exams will be impacted. The short answer is that it depends on the law school. But, in this post, we will dive deeper into some of the issues surrounding law school final exams in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
How will the coronavirus impact law school final exams?
All law schools are conducting the remainder of the winter 2020 semester online, so it is safe to assume that law school final exams will be administered online.
But, what will they look like? This will depend on the professor and school.
Some professors could switch up the formatting of their exams. For example, professors who usually administer essay exams might switch to a multiple-choice format because it is easier to grade and administer online. However, some professors might keep their exams the same, but just move it to an online format.
It is possible exams could be sent by postal service, however, we think this is unlikely because the coronavirus is affecting the mail service and law schools would not want students receiving exams at different times. Ultimately, this situation is completely out of the ordinary but it seems like moving to an online format is the way professors are going.
How to keep law school final exams fair
Cheating is always a concern with law school final exams. But, with everything going online, this likely is an even greater concern among faculty. Now, with exams likely being online, there is no stopping students from comparing notes or the Internet while taking a law school final exam.
Each school will have its own way of attempting to curb cheating on final exams. For example, law students using Canvas for online classes—there is a feature that allows for timed exams.
In light of law schools moving to online learning, some schools have given students the choice of receiving a pass/fail grade. Other law schools are making all grades for the semester pass/fail and the students have no choice.
Harvard Law School changed the grading policy for the semester to pass/fail for all students. Originally, Harvard Law students had the option to choose to receive a pass/fail or the letter grade. But, the law school then made it mandatory for all. Making all grades pass/fail (rather than giving students the choice) puts all students on the same page.
While some students may be excited about the mandatory pass/fail, others could be upset. Students who were working hard up until the pass/fail option was instituted will be upset because it might seem like all their hard work is going to waste. However, this work should, theoretically, get you closer to a pass.
On the other hand, 1Ls who did not do well their first semester of law school and were working hard to get their GPA up this semester now have to stick with the same GPA if their school moves to a pass/fail grading scale.
Ultimately, the decision to make all final grades pass/fail comes from a place of concern over the coronavirus outbreak and how this affects students and their families.
What are the consequences of a pass/fail grading system?
There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing to take a grade pass/fail, if you even have the option!
The upside and downside to pass/fail is that your final grade does not count toward your GPA, at least at most schools. So, even if you work really hard, all you get is a “pass” on your transcript. On the other hand, you can put in the minimal effort to get a “pass” and the letter grade you would have received will not be on your transcript and not affect your overall GPA.
Students might be concerned about how a “pass” or “fail” will look on their resume. Some employers could see a “pass” on a transcript as taking the “easy” way out because they do not get to see your actual grade, and it might look like you are hiding something. There is a worry as to how your pass/fail grade will look compared to someone who did not opt for the option. On the other hand, if you happen to get a “fail,” that might look worse on your transcript than taking a letter grade!
Additionally, it is unknown if potential employers will even consider these grades in hiring. They could only look at first semester and previous grades.
There is a question as to how class rank will be decided. This will ultimately be up to each law school.
Another consideration is how the pass/fail will affect scholarships. The answer to this is unknown at this time.
Determining whether to take the pass/fail option (if you have a choice) is a big decision, so make sure to take some time to think about what is best for you. Especially for 1Ls if you are a 1L. As a 1L, grades are everything in terms of getting a summer job, especially at a big law firm.
The good news is that these are unprecedented times, and everyone is aware of the situation. Thus, we assume that employers will be cognizant of this when reviewing resumes and transcripts.
If you bored with online classes and want to get a head start on studying for the bar exam, sign up for our free early bar prep tips here! We have advice on the bar exam in general and coronavirus-related information. We seek to provide interesting and informative articles and posts. We will text/email once a week on Wednesdays through May 13.
In the meantime, we have some great tips on how to pay attention in online law school classes. (If you need help with law school classes/finals, we are here for you! JD Advising offers law school tutoring virtually. You will get the same experience as being in person and the same materials!)
Wondering how the coronavirus might impact law school graduation? Check out our post! Also, if you are interested in how the coronavirus might impact the bar exam, you can read JD Advising’s input here.
If you are planning on a summer associate position or clerkship this summer, read our post on how the coronavirus might affect those!
Read more here about what JD Advising is doing internally concerning the coronavirus.
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