Students share differing perspectives on finals
May 30, 2015
As the school year winds to a close, freshmen Praveen Batra and Danya Zhang share their views on the two-hour long examinations that loom ahead.
Benefits of finals
Let’s be clear: I’m not going to say that finals are ideal—like anything else, they have their flaws. As single tests for each subject, finals allow for cramming and forgetting information and thus minimize the benefits of studying. And the grading of finals can promote stress leading up to and during the exam week.
“The worst part is always the studying for it, and the buildup, and the tension building up to the finals is just very stressful,” Victor Shin (9) said.
But there are a few benefits to finals: they provide a framework for allocating study time to multiple courses, and they promote studying to resolve errors in understanding. And like tests and quizzes, finals can help provide motivation for memorization of information, which can prove helpful in future courses.
As I began to study for finals, I asked myself whether I would review information for my five courses which had finals without the exams looming in the distance. Unsurprisingly, I found that the answer was no. The upcoming final exams were motivating my studying and review. I am not, for instance, studying for my courses which do not have final exams.
Before physics tests, I often look through practice problem sets to prepare myself. By practicing, I gain experience solving problems and can identify conceptual misunderstandings. But the day before an optionally graded physics test, I eschewed most of this dedicated review. I performed worse on that test than I had on those I had studied for—the graded tests had been an important incentive for me to study and better learn the material, and without them, I spent less time reviewing the material I had learned in class.
That’s one benefit of finals and other exams: they assist in balancing time spent studying each subject. On my own, I would be unsure how to ensure that I studied all of my courses to a reasonable degree. Final review guides simplify this process somewhat by providing me with a list of standards to meet in each course, and the motivation of finals and tests ensures that I actually try to meet this standard.
Another benefit of studying for exams is that the information memorized can be useful in future courses. In seventh grade world history, I spent a great deal of time memorizing PowerPoints in preparation for exams and reciting countries and capitals for tests—a seemingly excessive amount of effort. But today, I still occasionally find myself trawling these PowerPoints for information that I remember, and I can still remember a few countries and their capitals. I began to appreciate the foundation I had built for myself through studying when I revisited same eras in ninth grade history.
Similarly, studying for my ninth grade history final will help me next year—in fact, when I take AP World History, I will use the same textbook that I am studying from now. So studying for finals will bring some benefits, despite the drawbacks of the exams—well, unless you’re taking Euro next year, in which case I can’t comment.
Downsides of finals
At the end of the year, students look forward to summer vacation. However, before the three-month long break, students must also study and prepare for the finals. Before winter break, I studied non-stop for days, trying to review all the material from the beginning of the year for finals.
By far, the hardest subject to study for was physics. Physics, unlike any other subject, forced me to attend extra help several times to understand the material. Even on the day of the finals, I had to come in early to make sure that I understood every formula and concept.
According to Joshua Hung (11), another problem with finals is that they can have negative impacts on semester grades.
“Finals are pretty much bad because if you do badly, then you might lower your grade to a different letter grade,” Joshua said.
The main negative effect of taking finals is the stress. I often find myself staying up late while studying so I lose sleep. As a result, the next day, I cannot retain much information in class. Many students find finals difficult to study, because they must review material from much earlier in the year. When I review for french, I must remember many vocabulary words as well as the numerous grammar rules, making french my one subject that requires the most memorization skills. However, by studying more, I have difficulty remembering. By next year, I will probably have forgotten most of the terms taught to me.
“It’s really hard trying to relearn everything, because I forget a lot of what I learned before,” said Pooja Kini (10)
Finals are not the only way to assess a student’s growth. Finals compile information from a span of four months into a single test, thus causing stress and panic. Instead of a one large test at the end of the semester, it is also possible to give a different assessment throughout the school that is separate from test and quizzes. By giving this sort of final, it moderates time schedules and balances everything out.
“I think that there would be better ways to have some kind of long-term portfolio-type assessment that could be more reflective of the quality of work and the growth that you show over the course of the year,” said English teacher Andy Wicklund.