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Author Topic: Pass/Fail  (Read 5941 times)

cooleylawstudent

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Pass/Fail
« on: June 23, 2010, 09:32:54 PM »
Is it true that Harvard is going to a pass/fail system and if so why? Wouldnt that eliminate competition?

the white rabbit

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2010, 10:14:34 PM »
Is it true that Harvard is going to a pass/fail system and if so why? Wouldnt that eliminate competition?

I believe they've already done it.  I think the rationale is that everybody there is smart so why bother forcing professors to spend their time making meaningless distinctions between B's and B+'s?  I believe they still have high passes or something for exceptional performers.
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cooleylawstudent

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2010, 10:35:39 PM »
so do they still have class ranking? If so what if some random slacker got all D's since "I'm already here who cares" mentallity. As long as you fail wouldnt you be able to graduate on a 1.0 equivelent if its pass/fail?

Morten Lund

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2010, 10:53:22 PM »
Yale Law School has had this system for many years now, to no apparent harm.  YLS does not issue a class ranking, and I do not believe HLS does with their new system either.

Sure, a theoretical slacker could coast his/her way through, but as a practicality neither of those schools admit a lot of slackers.  If anything, their problem is an excess of neurotic overachievers.

By the way - "pass/fail" really is a misnomer, at least for YLS.  "Pass/pass" is more accurate.  You would have to try very hard to fail a class.  I suspect HLS will apply a similar policy.

cooleylawstudent

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2010, 11:49:54 PM »
ok, so if competing for a top internship or applying to a top firm when your classmates are also, how do they pick which they'd prefer?


quote author=Morten Lund link=topic=4023662.msg5381217#msg5381217 date=1277348002]
Yale Law School has had this system for many years now, to no apparent harm.  YLS does not issue a class ranking, and I do not believe HLS does with their new system either.

Sure, a theoretical slacker could coast his/her way through, but as a practicality neither of those schools admit a lot of slackers.  If anything, their problem is an excess of neurotic overachievers.

By the way - "pass/fail" really is a misnomer, at least for YLS.  "Pass/pass" is more accurate.  You would have to try very hard to fail a class.  I suspect HLS will apply a similar policy.
[/quote]

the white rabbit

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2010, 05:17:56 AM »
ok, so if competing for a top internship or applying to a top firm when your classmates are also, how do they pick which they'd prefer?

Like I said, there's still a high pass or something like that, which I believe is also the case at YLS?

As a practical matter, it won't matter for a lot of top internships or top firms because they'll just try to hire you AND your classmates.
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Morten Lund

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2010, 11:10:42 AM »
YLS does have an "honors" grade (= high pass), and they are used by firms to some extent - but not nearly to the extent of a GPA/class rank.  Some people think honors are important mainly if you want a high-end clerkship or a White House job.  I don't know whether data is available - all I have is anecdotal evidence.

Honors are given at the professor's discretion (no curve or specific requirements), and there is a lot of variation among professors, so there is a certain sense of arbitrariness about the whole honors business.  (YLS also has a "low pass" grade, which according to legend is even more rare than failing).

So how do firms (and other employers) distinguish?  Other resume items and interview.  At the top schools, employers will assume that everybody is smart - the question becomes more about fit.  To some extent there is mutual selling, but by no means does every firm make an offer to every Yalie.

cooleylawstudent

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2010, 11:59:02 AM »
and you wonder why they post here crying like their mommy just killed their dog when they can't find work right away, or are too good for what offers they get.

"but.....but.....my dad wears a tie......"


ok, so if competing for a top internship or applying to a top firm when your classmates are also, how do they pick which they'd prefer?

Like I said, there's still a high pass or something like that, which I believe is also the case at YLS?

As a practical matter, it won't matter for a lot of top internships or top firms because they'll just try to hire you AND your classmates.

the white rabbit

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2010, 07:20:41 PM »
and you wonder why they post here crying like their mommy just killed their dog when they can't find work right away, or are too good for what offers they get.

"but.....but.....my dad wears a tie......"

It's generally not the Harvard/Yale students who are saying this.  Most of them are doing well enough.
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BikePilot

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Re: Pass/Fail
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2010, 11:22:48 AM »
HLS hasn't done class rankings for a long time.  The current grade system is low pass, pass, high pass.  So basically A-, A and A+ got lumped together in high pass while pass lumps B and B+ and low pass = B-.  I'm sure its not an exact match-up, but that's basically it.  There is a mandatory curve, so the ratio of low pass, pass and high passes will be pretty constant (so unlike YLS, low passes are common at hls).

I thought it was a stupid move and still do.  From students' perspective I haven't seen one iota of change in terms of competition or anything else, just a bit less transparency for grading - probably so professors can work even less hard wrt grading.  Somehow they are supposedly still working out latin honors, though its not clear to me how meaningful or accurate they will be.  There are also (very) few special honors given out for students at the very top of their class or section I think.

The mandatory curve will allow employers to compare transcripts, just with a bit less distinction than before.  There are also other signaling mechanisms such as recommendations, law review, journals, olin fellowship and that sort of thing. Overall I think employers are less than pleased with the situation, but haven't seen anything to indicate that they are hiring any fewer hls students because of it (though a certain Justice has said he won't be hiring HLS students due to the new grading system).
 
The best justification for it really depends on how good the grading was under the old systems.  If professors were able to meaningfully group exams by the letter grade system we had, then we've lost some transparency and that's a bad thing imho.  If professors weren't able to make such fine distinctions and ended up just arbitrarily separating As from A- for example, then the new system should better reflect reality and that's a good thing.

Just my 2c.  BTW my 1L year we all had letter grades.  My 2L year the 1Ls only switched to L/P/H, my 3L year we were all on L/P/H.
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