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The Final, Final Exams

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For the last three years, I have had to take multiple final exams each semester to “prove” that I have learned the material for each of my classes. Every year in the weeks before winter and summer break, students cram down notes and have endless study sessions in hopes of getting the grade they are shooting for on their final exams. Final exams have been here long enough, and I believe that it is time to ditch the traditional ways of testing.

While testing our knowledge is a great system to have within education, there is a certain extent to when it should be restricted. We go through quizzes and tests for every unit within a class, projects, homework, and everything in between all year long. With that stated, having to end the semester by taking a lengthy assessment consisting of a handful of the material taught may be  bit over the top. We study in class all year long and take tests throughout the semesters, so I do not see the need to have to prove once again that we learned the material. Not only is it just the same tests over again but it is also towards the end of the semester, thus we will be tested on material that we haven’t reviewed possibly in months.

Another point to raise is the different options that are available. Senior year, if you have an ‘A’ grade second semester, then you do not have to take the final exam for that class. To me, I believe this is how it should be within every class, every semester, and every year. If you are passing the class with an ‘A,’ that has to mean that you are understanding the material enough to not have to be tested again to prove your knowledge. East Leyden Senior Nick Diaz believes, “If you have higher than a 90% grade, [then you] shouldn’t have to take the final exam since you already know the content.” An alternative option that students do have are by taking AP classes. If you take AP classes,you do not take a final exam second semester for that class but instead take the specific AP exam. While this is not an easier option, it is an alternative to not take the semester final exam.

To me, final exams are a hit or miss. They count for almost twenty percent of your final grade, therefore if you do not excel on it, your grade can be impacted greatly. For example, if you have a borderline grade such as an 89%, you must study and work a lot more to get that ‘B’ to an ‘A.’ For example, last year, I had a 89% in my U.S History Honors class first semester and utilizing the exam grade calculator provided on the Leyden website, I needed to score a 94% on the final exam to earn a ‘A’ as my final grade. However, to keep my ‘B’ grade, all I needed was a 44% on the final. This is where the system is messed up, you are that close to an ‘A’ letter grade so it should not be an impossible feat to reach that goal, but it can be. And that is the problem with the final exams. There could have been a situation as well where you have that borderline grade and pay attention all semester long but on the test day, you are not feeling well and that impairs your ability to score well. Should you really be dropped down a letter grade just for making a mistake on that one day? While they are good for testing our knowledge, final exams can impact our grades for the worse even if we understand the material.

The real question to raise with final exams is where are they appropriate? Does a physical education class really need to have a final exam? Don’t get me wrong, there are some P.E classes that do teach material but most are just workouts and aren’t worth having a final for. To me, the only classes that final exams would be appropriate for are the core classes: math, science, english, and possibly business. These are the major departments of education that are needed within every role in the world; therefore, they are the ones that need to be tested on the most.

While final exams have been part of every high school and college student’s lives, change needs to be made. Most final exams are not appropriate due to their sole purpose of testing knowledge of outdated material taught months before and having that test impact your grade most of the time, for the worse. With finals right around the corner, students are going to start studying 24/7 in hopes of getting a good grade on their final exams but we need to make this the final, final exam and end the constant “proving” of knowledge.

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Keeping watch over student news at East Leyden High School
The Final, Final Exams