How Law School Curves Work

how law school curves work

Your first year at law school will likely feel vastly different from your college experience. The teaching methods and exams will be unfamiliar, while you’ll spend a significant amount of time reading legal cases.

Most law courses feature one final exam that counts for 100% of your final grade. However, some schools provide midterms and assignments throughout the semester.


Christopher Columbus Langdell pioneered the case method of legal education at Harvard Law School in 1871, which involves students reading cases to learn the law. This practice has since spread throughout all law schools and remains one of the primary ways students learn the laws of their land.

Many courses, particularly first-year classes, require you to read several court cases as part of exam preparation. This can be extremely beneficial as it gives you insight into the law from various viewpoints; however, it may also seem daunting if you lack prior experience with these cases.

When you find yourself stuck on a case, it is wise to seek assistance. Your professor may know of another source that will answer your query or you might need to reread the case in another format. Furthermore, ask if any of your classmates have come across this problem before.

Particularly during your first year, it can be challenging to remember all of the unstated assumptions embedded in cases you are studying. You may need to reread some cases several times in order to fully comprehend them.

You can use your class notes or outlines to better comprehend cases. These documents typically consist of legal arguments and rules organized into a framework. This will give you insight into the law from various viewpoints, giving you an effective tool for answering exam questions accurately and concisely.

Your success in law school ultimately depends on how well you master the system designed for you. That is why it is essential to take advantage of all available systems and tools, such as a quality casebook, comprehensive outline, and other helpful study aids. By understanding how these systems function, you can better prepare yourself for first-year classes and throughout your remaining time at law school.

First-semester exams

Law students take their first-semester exams seriously, since these tests represent the first opportunity to be tested on material learned in class. Furthermore, these assessments are of great significance since they will determine a student’s final grade for the semester.

One of the major surprises students encounter during their initial semesters of law school is how grading works. Most schools follow a norm-referenced curve, but grades for individual exams are often given out individually. This means that each student’s final grade for an exam is determined by both their initial score and that earned by classmates.

Though not the most rigorous system, the law school grading curve does demonstrate an immense amount of effort from professors and administrative staff. Nonetheless, it’s essential to remember that grades don’t always accurately reflect a student’s true understanding of a topic.

If your first semester grades appear to be lower than expected, speaking with a counselor or advisor about your situation is wise. They can help identify what needs improving and give advice on preparing for the second semester.

Establishing a study plan can be beneficial, as it helps you prioritize classes and manage time efficiently. To guarantee you’re ready for all upcoming exams, create an outline for each class.

You may want to discuss your upcoming exams with your professors in order to receive feedback and assess how well you understand the material. Doing this can help enhance both your comprehension of the material and performance on exams in the future.

Your law school grading curve should be an accurate reflection of your ability as an examinee, yet it can also cause frustration for some students. Some schools have their own norm-referenced curves, while others rely on exam instructors to assign a median grade to each student.

Extracurricular activities

Law schools seek candidates who demonstrate commitment and passion beyond academic excellence. Extracurriculars and community involvement are two ways colleges assess this characteristic.

Contrary to what some admissions counselors may tell you, extracurricular activities are not the sole factor in whether or not you get accepted to a law school. Rather, they serve to enhance other elements of your application package such as GPA, LSAT scores and your letter of recommendation from the school.

Extracurriculars, particularly those related to your intended major, can help you demonstrate that you possess the necessary skills and experience for this career path. For instance, joining a medical club might be an effective way of demonstrating that you have taken initiative in developing these abilities and interests.

Additionally, extracurriculars can develop leadership and initiative skills that you can apply to future employment. Volunteering your time at a local shelter or food bank is one example of an extracurricular that will showcase those qualities to potential employers.

Colleges are more likely to accept applicants who have demonstrated their community service or volunteer efforts on their resume. These kinds of activities have a beneficial effect on the world around you and demonstrate your dedication to serving your community’s needs.

Some law schools require students to include an explanation of their extracurricular activities in their application. This should include a description of the activity, any accomplishments or honors related to it and any relevant professional experiences.

When listing extracurricular activities on your application, it’s essential that they occur regularly and with considerable responsibility. For instance, if you’re part of a volunteer group with Habitat for Humanity, make sure to list both those builds as well as other volunteer experiences on your application.

Many schools require students to submit an additional essay about their extracurricular activities, so if you want them to have something specific to reflect upon when reviewing your application, include that information in your main body of the essay. Doing so will add depth to your essay and allow for you to elaborate on any particular details related to these extracurriculars that make your application stand out from others.

Course selection

Students’ first year in law school can be quite the adjustment. Teaching methods and classmates who possess high intelligence levels and work ethic often differ from colleges, making it challenging for most to achieve top grades during their 1L year classes.

One way law schools try to combat this issue is by instituting a stringent grading curve on their students. This ensures only certain number of A’s are awarded, while remaining students are evaluated based on their ability to demonstrate complete mastery over the material in comparison with other students in the class.

The grading curve also serves to alert professors to students who may require extra support in the course. Unfortunately, this policy may create a sense of distrust among students who fear only a select few will receive “A” grades in each class.

Some schools, such as Yale and Harvard, have gone completely off the letter grading system. Instead, they award honors, passes, and low passes to students who perform well in a course; better-performing pupils receiving honors.

Students can take more courses without fear of dropping below the grade point average they would otherwise achieve by submitting the same number of pass/fail grades during their 1L year. Furthermore, some have reported that this alternate grading system has made it simpler to reach higher GPAs.

Though it is impossible for law students to avoid a grade curve during their first year, there are strategies that can help mitigate its effect. For instance, some opt to enroll in a course with too few students for it to be included on the law school’s grade curve.

Many students select courses graded “honors,” which do not count towards a student’s grade point average but do count toward their total credits for the term.