Summary Of Grading Policies - JD Program

This is a summary of Loyola Law School's grading policies for JD students. A full description of the grading policies can be found in the JD Student Handbook. Separate grading rules apply to the Tax LL.M. program, and are fully described in the Tax LL.M. Student Handbook.

JD classes fall into three categories: 1) Graded Pass/Fail; 2) Letter graded, not subject to normalization; and 3) Letter graded, subject to normalization.

Graded Pass/Fail

Very few curricular offerings may be taken Pass/Fail. Most externships are graded Pass/Fail, as are law reviews, the Entertainment Law Practicum, and most credit-granting competitions (such as Moot Court). Transfer credits are accepted on a Pass basis. You may not opt to take a letter graded class Pass/Fail, except for classes in one of the Loyola Law School administered Summer abroad programs (see Handbook for details).

To earn unit credit in an elective at Loyola Law School a student must earn at least a C.  In elective courses  graded Pass/Fail, the award of a “Pass” indicates that the student would have earned at least a C had the course been subject to letter grades.  A “Pass” is not the equivalent of any letter grade.  A student earning a “Pass”  will be awarded academic credit for the course.   A “Fail” indicates that the student would have earned less than a C had the course been subject to letter grades.  A student earning a “Fail” will not be awarded academic credit for the course.

Numerically Graded, Not Normalized

Directed Research papers, some externships and competitions, and classes in which 7 or fewer JD students are enrolled, are letter graded but not subject to normalization rules.

Letter Graded and Normalized

The majority of classes at Loyola are subject to normalization. This means that final grades are “curved” to conform to a uniform distribution. Grades in individual classes are “normalized” to this fixed curve to eliminate disparities among classes and from year to year. This greatly minimizes “grade shopping” and “grade inflation,” both of which undermine the reliability of student grades and make comparisons difficult for employers and others.

Grades are normalized (“curved”) in 2 respects. The first imposes a mean (arithmetic average) on grades in each class; the second imposes a “standard deviation” (SD) on grades. SD measures each grade’s distance from the mean. Standard deviation is a customary way of measuring relative performance and provides greater information than raw scores do. Most standardized tests, such as the LSAT, use a similar system of fixed mean and standard deviation.

Use of a fixed mean and SD in classes results in the Law School's grades being “comparative,” rather than “normative.” Grades indicate how well students perform in a class compared to other students in that class. Comparative grading reduces artificial distinctions among courses. Otherwise, the same grade could mean different things in different courses or different sections of a course. For instance, an B+ might be merely an average grade in one Torts section but a high grade in another. Normalization reduces arbitrariness in grading and promotes uniform and fixed meaning.

All first year classes use a fixed mean of 81. Most upper division classes use a fixed mean of 82. The exception is for upper division classes with 8 to 30 students. In those cases, the professor can use a mean higher than 85 if the average GPA of the students in the class is higher than 85.

With the exception of Legal Research and Writing and Ethical Lawyering, all first year classes and all large upper division classes (31 or more students) use a fixed SD of 6.00. Upper division classes with 30 students or fewer are not subject to a prescribed SD: the professor can use any SD he or she wants. First year Legal Research and Writing classes use an SD between 4.00 and 6.00. Ethical Lawyering classes use an SD of 5.00.

Grading Rules for First Year Courses

All first year courses, with the exception of Legal Research and Writing and the First Year Elective--including Law and Process--(i.e., Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, and Torts) will have a mandatory mean of 81.00 and a mandatory standard deviation of 6.00.  This rule applies to both the Day and the Evening Divisions, even though, with respect to the latter, some of these courses will be taken in the second year.

The mean for the First Year Elective, with the exception of Law and Process, will be determined based on the mean grade point average of the students enrolled in the class, as calculated using the final grades from all courses other than the elective course. There will be a mandatory standard deviation of 4.00-6.00 for the First Year Elective.  

Legal Research and Writing  and  Law and Process  will have a mandatory mean of 81.00 and a mandatory standard deviation of 4.00-6.00.

The Difference Between Raw Scores, Components and Final Grades

Raw scores are those a professor generates in grading papers using whatever scoring system he or she wishes. For instance, professors can score papers on a 10-point scale, a letter-based scale, or anything else. If a professor announces raw scores, this tells very little about what that score means once normalized. Relying on raw scores can be misleading unless you also know the distribution of other scores in the class.

Component grades are those assigned to individual parts of a grading package to determine the final grade in a class. For instance, if both a mid-term and final examination are given in a class, or a final examination is part essay and part multiple choice, then each component will have its own score. These individual scores are internally normalized so they can be combined to produce a final grade. Component grades (such as mid-terms) are estimates. For instance, you can receive an A- on both a mid-term and final examination, and yet wind up with an A final grade. That is because normalized component grades are merely educated guesses at what the final distribution of grades in the class will look like. Once normalized component grades are added together, they may need to be re-normalized to conform to the fixed curve rules. Final normalization occurs only at the end of a class; hence mid-term and other component grades can only be tentative. Thus, your final grade in a course will not necessarily be the average of the scores you received on the graded components.

Boundary Grades

There are 2 boundaries in the Law School's grading system: F and C. Final grades below 55 (e.g., 0 for a student who didn't take an examination) will be recorded on transcripts as a F. This is to prevent a single bad performance from disproportionately affecting a student’s GPA. The other boundary grade is C; grades below C are failing grades and students will receive no credit for the course. There are no other boundary grades (although a student must meet specified minimum cumulative GPAs for academic good standing, academic probation and graduation).

For more information, please contact the Office of the Registrar, at (213) 736-1130.