Everyone knows the old joke. A guy walking in New York City asks a woman: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” She responds, “Practice, Practice, Practice.” Practice make perfect. But how are law students supposed to practice for exams?
Law students frequently, and often with justification, complain about lack of pre-exam feedback. In pre-publication reviews of Open Book, students stressed to us how much they wanted more examples, and . . . more feedback!
It is easy to see why students feel this way. They come to class day after day, mostly listening while someone else speaks. Then, suddenly, they are expected to take the exams that pretty much determine their course grades. Even after exams, they are often left wondering what happened.
Most profs try to provide some feedback. For example, it’s common these days to post practice exams and model answers. We’ve done the same thing in our book by providing hypotheticals that readers can try their hand at, along with sample answers available on the website that accompanies the book.
But can we do better? Here’s what we came up with. Coming soon to our website is a suite of practice exams that provide faculty feedback beyond model answers. Students who buy them get an actual exam and a model answer, but also a copy of the exam with annotations from the professor identifying where issues were hidden or key facts provided. They also get actual student answers (anonymous, of course), and these too are marked up by the professor to show strengths and weaknesses.
In a perfect world, law professors would provide extensive individualized feedback to each student before exams. And we know some heroic profs who do this. But many of us don’t and can’t. So we need to provide alternatives. We think Open Book’s exam suite is promising, but there are surely other ways to go. We’d love to hear your ideas.