The issue with final exams

The Charger Bulletin

Finals should be a thing of the past. Coming from a college student, I’m sure no one is surprised by my opinion and many students would probably agree with it. But unlike the majority, I don’t have an issue with final exams because I am lazy, or I don’t want to study, or I have officially checked out of this semester; I have an issue with them because they are unfair.

courtney bw

The semester starts in August and finishes in December. This is over three months of hard work and dedication that students put in towards receiving an A, and it can all be taken away because of a final. I understand that professors want to test us to see how much we have learned throughout the course, but having one test at the end that counts for a higher percentage of your grade than the others makes absolutely no sense, especially if it is a cumulative final.

Why should one test count for more than another if the same amount of studying is put into both? Why should one test count for more than a research paper, which required hours of outside research and critical thinking skills? It shouldn’t.

Our grades should be determined by how well we performed all semester long, not how well we perform for two hours on a particular day. To have a final count for more than all the other work we put in all semester is not acceptable.

Perhaps an even bigger reason that finals are not fair is because everyone performs differently on tests. I am lucky; I have a very good memory so tests have never been an issue for me—I can get by with only a few hours of studying and still remember all the information I need to pass the test. But everyone is different and everyone excels at different things; for people like me, tests are our forte, but for others, they might be better at writing or public speaking. If finals are going to continue to haunt us, I think there should at least be an option of what kind of test we are forced to take.

Instead of only giving out one form of the test, professors should ask students if they would rather substitute in a speech or a paper instead of filling in a scantron sheet. It upsets me when I see people who put in much more time studying for a test than I did still get a lower grade simply because their memory isn’t as strong. If the ultimate goal is to be taught something, we should be able to show what we have learned in any way we please, not just the one that is most convenient for them to correct.

Finals are too black and white to actually prove anything substantial about a student’s ability to learn. For the most part, it is either you got the answer right or you got the answer wrong, especially with multiple-choice finals, with which it’s really just a guessing game. They don’t show the effort a student actually puts in, the amount of sleep that is lost trying to memorize pointless facts, or how a student will take what they’ve learned and use it in the real world.

To me, whether a student showed up for class everyday, or if they participated in discussions, or if they put a lot of thought into their papers should determine if they receive an A or not, not how well they did on the final test of the semester.

There are two options: abolish final tests all together or keep them, but offer different options for formatting, and please, make them weighted equivalently to the rest of the work we do all semester; that is the only fair way.