At the end of each high school semester, the students are tasked with overwhelmingly difficult tests that encompass all of the knowledge taught for that semester. These tests, referred to as ‘Midterms’ or ‘Finals,’ encourage students to continue to interact with the course material, bettering their chances of remembering the material. But, while finals aim at allowing students to understand and remember the course content already learned, the tests end up placing the students in highly stressful situations and at high-risk of failing a class, he or she may have worked hard at all year (“Examining the Benefits of Cumulative Tests and Finals.”).
Finals try to help long-term retention, but only push students to memorize as much of the information as possible without actually learning it (“Examining the Benefits of Cumulative Tests and Finals.”). While finals appear to be a good option for a lasting remembrance of material, the tests increase stress and allow for little actual learning, only memorizing, to occur.
Although finals are supposed to be a test over all the knowledge acquired, students rarely take time to thoroughly review material before the exam. Many students learn just enough to pass the test, cramming all the information into one study session, and forget it all after completion (Fox). The focus is on passing the test, rather than learning the material, defeating the purpose of what the test, and essentially school, is: to learn and grow one’s mind (Fox).
A school must ask itself when the test does not evaluate a student’s learning capabilities but instead, their memorization, is the test really necessary to have? Finals should be ended as they only examine a student’s ability to retain information for a short period rather than evaluate what the students have learned in the semester. Also, finals place students in a high-pressure environment, affecting their ability to perform well.
A student may be hardworking and diligent, but when given a little amount of time and lots of information to understand, the high stakes and high pressure can alter the true reflection of a student’s abilities (Brodeur). The stress affects the mental health of a student, a topic schools try to put importance on but rarely talk about how mental health can be affected and helped. The stress can stop a student’s eating or sleep schedule, or make him or her physically sick, something that can be easily prevented if finals are ended (Brodeur).
Schools have to ask what is more important, testing students with a difficult exam that covers material students have forgotten or preserving the healthiness of a student’s mind? The stress of the exams allows for no accurate portrayal of a student’s successes in the classroom as they only incite fear and anxiety in a student, therefore not being a viable option for evaluating students.
Finals are tests aimed at evaluating a student’s knowledge at the end of a semester, but ultimately the exams only increase stress and are not an accurate depiction of a student’s capabilities. Instead of having final exams, schools can test students after each unit, topic, or chapter they learn, as schools normally do. These tests are just as accurate, if not more, than finals and eliminate stress and anxiety as well. No student can accurately be evaluated on a test that is influenced by stress, anxiety, and a lack of learning and preparation, ruling finals as unnecessary in a school setting.
“Examining the Benefits of Cumulative Tests and Finals.” Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching
& Learning, 13 Nov. 2015,www.facultyfocus.com/articles/educational-assessment/
Fox, Andi. “6 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Have Final Exams.” HHS Media, hhsmedia.com/
Brodeur, Kris. “Finals Shouldn’t Have the Power to Destroy Cumulative Grades.” The GW
Hatchet, 22 Dec. 2017, www.gwhatchet.com/2017/12/21/finals-shouldnt-have-the-power-to-destroy-cumulative-grades/.
Hi Anna, I found your article very relatable. Along with many others, finals have always been a huge stressor for me. When winter break rolls around it is nice to have a break but I always feel like I should be studying. This year due to COVID, my school has canceled finals. It has been such a relief to not have to worry about them. I agree that unfortunately, finals have become more of a test of memorization. When studying for finals it is most efficient to remember the fact and not the reason behind it. Personally, I prefer projects over tests. I think it gives students more of an opportunity to dive deeper into their learning. I liked how you said, ” the high stakes and high pressure can alter the true reflection of a student’s abilities”. I agree that finals put a lot of pressure on students. Students work so hard all semester and they don’t want the final to “ruin” their grade. Stress can cause students to not perform their best on the test.
I really like how authoritative this piece is, and its ability to take schools/the concept of final exams to task. A paragraph which really stood out to me:
“A school must ask itself when the test does not evaluate a student’s learning capabilities but instead, their memorization, is the test really necessary to have? Finals should be ended as they only examine a student’s ability to retain information for a short period rather than evaluate what the students have learned in the semester. Also, finals place students in a high-pressure environment, affecting their ability to perform well.”
I think if we’re going to entertain the possibility of walking away from final exams, then we have to ask ourselves what we do with that time, instead. “Nothing,” could be an answer– but it has to be backed up with good reasons. Simultaneously, it’s worth our while to consider the purpose finals serve, are supposed to serve, and any additional purposes that could be serving but aren’t. For instance:
You mention the “high-pressure” environment? To what extent, if at all, is there value to the high-pressure environment? Do students have anything to gain from experiencing it, and is that gain worth the cost?
Most schools have standards or objectives– academic goals that they want students to accomplish at the end of each year. How do schools know how many students have achieved these goals? How do students know they’ve achieved those goals? When’s the cut off point? I.e.: By WHEN should students demonstrate that they’ve met these goals?
What about curiosity? If there’s one thing my high school did well, it was building up my passion for my interests and teaching me how to be curious enough to explore them? The bulk of that curiosity-building was a year-long project for my AP Lit class in lieu of a final. Do finals adequately stimulate that curiousity? Should they? If not finals, then what else?
Some questions to chew on, anyway. I would love to see a follow-up piece that tackles one of these ideas.