Advice: Pass/Fail

It’s exams; everything for the entire foreseeable future will be either about Int’l/Insurance/Tax law, or lifted wholly from someone thinking more clearly than I.

This snarky, straightforward response from ATL totally scratched an itch I didn’t even realize I had (emphases added):

Hello, I need some advice on whether I should pass/fail Evidence. In short, I have a Constitutional Law exam the morning before with the Evidence exam occurring the following afternoon. I can do some studying during the last week of class, but I have to take two finals before Evidence. I am concerned that pass/failing Evidence will look bad especially if I desire employment at a prosecutor’s office. Your thoughts on pass/failing a bar class in this situation? I figured no employer would care enough to hear about a difficult exam schedule since a transcript stands on its own.

The Dude

Dear The Dude,

Pass/fail is code for: didn’t have the stamina to stay and study, the foresight to review in advance, and the balls to face the music. It’s perfectly legitimate to use it for classes like Mental Health Law, Law & Literature, and other lunacy, but when you use it in Evidence, you cross the line. If your future clients discover that their you pass/failed evidence, they’ll probably feel the way I felt many years ago when I went on a date with a “neurologist,” only to discover he was a D.O. (through a Lexis public records search).

The beauty of transcripts is their starkness. No partial credit, no attached Annex A with a moving tale of how your computer and grandmother died during the exam. Your grades speak for themselves, but when you pass/fail, you plead the Fifth. And even a fool knows that people who plead the Fifth have something to hide.

Ultimately, pulling a pass/fail in a core class because of an exam schedule is kind of like pulling a Robert Bowman. Today you pass/fail an exam; tomorrow you start a $400,000 student loan Ponzi scheme. Today you blame bad timing; tomorrow, a jet ski.

There is honor in failing. There is no honor in pass/failing. It is a slippery slope, and you might break your leg in four places going down.

Your friend,


But you know what Marin, life is pass/fail. Style points only matter in college football and pre-marital sex.  Sooner or later, we all have to learn to stop with the grading. Part of growing up is learning that grades are really stupid. Life is a collection of binary choices that taken together create the decision matrix that is you. People should spend more time analyzing their base choices and less time worrying about how pretty they can make the choice appear.

If I’m reading The Dude right here, he’s already made the choice to take the exam pass/fail. That decision is the end result of many other choices he made over the course of the semester. In fact, I’m sure if we knew more about The Dude we’d see that his entire life has lead him, inexorably, to taking Evidence pass/fail. He has already made the choice.

I for one applaud that choice. I applaud the moxie of it. I applaud the self-awareness it takes to know when you are beaten, and the courage it takes to accept your fate, cruel though it may be. Bravo, my friend. Bravo.

And sure, it is a terrible choice that will absolutely screw you when you roll into a prosecutor’s office rocking a “P” in freaking Evidence, of all things. But even mind-numbingly bad decisions can be laudable.

Heaven is the ultimate pass/fail.

— Saint Peter

Can they? Knowing that you had the “courage” to pass/fail an important class is little consolation when the prosecutor’s office forwards your transcript around internally with the subject line, “LOL – WTF.” Because that will be your future, The Dude, and you will certainly need courage to face it.

Kat NB: Again, everything interesting about this post came directly from here.


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