Common Exam Mistakes

I’m in the middle of grading my exams, and thus the question of what separates the good ones from the bad ones is fresh in my mind.  Some exam pitfalls are obvious (poor writing, getting cases mixed up, not reading the question carefully, bad time management).  But there are some other recurring problems that deserve more careful attention.

1.  “The Spewer” —  This is what I call the student who more or less dumps their course outline into the answer.  A classic example goes something like this:  “Proximate cause is not an issue in A’s claim against B. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell you about the entire history of proximate cause doctrine so that you know that I was REALLY paying attention that day in class.”  I suppose that this also reflects the irritation of realizing that you spent lots of time studying a topic that just isn’t on the exam.

2.  “It Must Be There, Damn It”  —  This is what happens when the irritated student decides that they want to answer the question that isn’t being asked.

3.  “Leave No Stone Unturned” — This is when somebody spends five pages explaining why A punching B in the face is, in fact, a tort.  When a paragraph would suffice, that’s a problem.  Usually these folks end up running out of time and missing most of the other issues.

4.  “Polly Wants a Cracker” — This is the student who just repeats what you said in class.  Now I suppose that this works for some professors, but it doesn’t exactly demonstrate original thought.

Of course, I also get many wonderful exam answers from terrific students.  (As it’s the holiday season, let’s end on an upbeat note).

I’ll be taking a break from the blog during the holidays and through the AALS conference in New Orleans. Hope you all have a Happy New Year.  I know I’m looking forward to 2010!

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Miriam A. Cherry says:

    Hi, Gerard,
    Well, you seem to have got the major categories of mistakes… wondering whether I might be able to include them in my exam memo. First year students are just learning how to take an exam so this could be very helpful.
    Best, Miriam

  2. 1L says:

    Very good to know – especially with Professor Magliocca’s final exam coming up this week!