I've had exams I felt were graded poorly, worded poorly, or an unfair test of the material we covered. I've felt the sting of the surprise bad grade when I thought I knew the material and did well on an exam. I've even felt the surprise of a better than expected grade due to a friendly curve. But yesterday's corporate and partnership tax was the first time on a law school exam where I've felt the sheer disappointment of just not being prepared.
I knew how difficult the material was. I had done enough over the course of the semester to know what I needed to do to be prepared for the exam. But I didn't do it. And I took the exam unprepared. Each of the essay questions was a problem that I know I could have done in the allotted time had I practiced them, but without the recent practice I was slow.
Much too slow.
I even guessed on several of the last few questions -- not multiple choice guessing, mind you, I'm talking about essay exam guessing. As in making up transactions and asserting that they might be subject to non-recognition without any statutory support and a vague memory of something that may or may not be true about a transaction that may or may have looked like the one I made up.
Four hours later, I left the exam, frustrated and very disappointed. Tax is a very fair class. If you prepare and do the problems correctly on the exam, you will get all of the points. I like the material. The exam covered enough that you didn't have time to figure it out during the exam, but if you knew how to do the problems, you absolutely could have done well.
But I was not well enough prepared.
With an unfair exam, a surprising grade, or a rough curve, the disappointment stems from the fact that the grade is not representative of how well you knew the material. But I'm not really that hung up on my grades -- they don't represent how well I know the material and as long as I feel good about what I learn, both the sting and the happiness from grades usually dissolves in a day or two. I'm here, I'm going to graduate and life's not fair, so it doesn't surprise me that law school grades aren't fair either.
But this time, for the first time since I started law school, I knew that I just didn't know the material. (I'm sure I didn't know the material in other exams as well, but at least I'd put in enough work to *think* that I knew the material.) And, so, this time, I'm very disappointed in myself, as opposed to my grades.
Clearly, instead of wallowing, the best approach would be to focus on getting all of the material from wills & trusts into my head to avoid a repeat. Yeah... I'll get on that.