Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Understand Why Smart Students Can Be So Dumb on Finals

Almost done grading my antitrust finals.  While there are a couple of spectacular ones, I don't understand how every single student thought Section 3 of the Clayton Act applied to a tying arrangement involving services rather than goods.  This was a 24 hour take home open book final  so there is no reason not to actually read the statute before writing about it. 

The other thing that drives me crazy is the tendency to quote some black letter law and then simply state some conclusion when most of the points are gained through actually analyzing why the student thought something was or was not per se unlawful, why the relevant market was or not web based restaurant reservation systems, or why an exclusive dealing contract violated the rule of reason.

The final thing that drives me crazy is the failure to be complete.  So you think something is per se unlawful and explain why.  Good for you.  But the even better answer would go on to analyze the same agreement under some form of the rule of reason as well just in case the court or prof happens to disagree with your first argument..

Since these things drive me crazy, I explain them at length during the semester, the review session, and on the instructions to the final (which they have in advance).  And absolutely nothing changes.

I don't think I am just being cranky or idiosyncratic.  To state black letter law and state a bald conclusion as if you have accomplished something special is just bad lawyering.  So is failing to analyze alternative ways to solve the same problem.

Besides whining, I would welcome any suggestions on how to achieve a higher percentage of answers that actualy reflect something more than regurgitation of canned outlines.  Do I really have to be as literal as post some kind of power point on how to answer an exam question?


  1. Yes! And post lots of practice questions. Both help some.

  2. Agree with Ted. I've moved to covering less material and requiring weekly written assignments, on which I offer comments to one or a few

  3. All good ideas but am concerned that we are just encouraging a different kind of regurgitation.

  4. That depends on how you write your exam

  5. My LLMs in Bruges are precisely like this, even though I give very explicit talks throughout the year on what to expect, and how to answer qs, and then my RA does it all again in tutorials. I don't get it. I marked 52 exams yesterday and today and like always only two papers were ace, the rest fair and I've yet again had to fail a few (which is hard to do under the Belgian system, trust me and means rewrites and re marks) so what a disappointing year yet again, yet in the classes they seem to get on like wildfire with the exercises and group work and speaking up etc. bizarro. Can't work out what to do. And the exam is three hour open book and not pitched harder than my lectures. Sigh.