Final exams are not valid indicators of course comprehension

Avary Kampwerth

Cartoon by Liam Killian

As we reach the end of the fall semester, every student on campus is diligently studying for final examinations. From STEM majors to students in the arts, the entire Titan community is now in the final stretch of the year. In the coming week, hundreds of papers, presentations, projects and tests will be completed in order to demonstrate to the faculty that we are worthy of “good grades.” Of all of the last items on the checklist before winter break, the “final exam” is arguably the most daunting. 

No matter the time spent studying, many students undergo immense amounts of anxiety, stress and fear, all just to prove to a professor that you have retained the information presented from the class. I believe that final exams are not effective in demonstrating that a student has learned the material from a course.

While I believe that periodic exams are helpful throughout the span of a course, a cumulative final exam is not entirely necessary. Studying for exams throughout the semester is far different than studying for an exam that covers the entire course material. Periodic exams and studying allows for a student to slowly become familiar with the material provided. Why should they have to prove their understanding a second time for a cumulative final exam? A final exam with only new information feels far more appropriate than an exam covering the entire course. 

Rather than a final exam, professors and educators should use other methods and assignments for a student to exhibit their hard work. Projects and papers allow a student to take their time and develop a product that covers the major points of a course. A paper with a prompt that ties in several core ideas that is given to a student to complete within a week can be much more effective. This assignment allows the student to sit back and create a paper using all of their acquired knowledge from the course, rather than trying to remember information at the last second. The student is then able to put their best foot forward and present to their professor what can be accomplished when they are given time to do their work. 

Final exam season also brings about strong emotions in the student community. For many, this coming week will be full of sleepless nights, caffeine, and frustrated studying. Individuals in majors that require memorization for a performance or on the spot recitement will be frantic to make sure their piece is perfect. After being in this mental state for days on end, it becomes increasingly difficult for a student to do well the day of the exam. The stress from the week pushes many students to a breaking point, and are not able to deliver their best work. 

Students that suffer from test anxiety or that don’t test well will be under even more stress. While I believe that studying makes for a better student overall, pushing students to a point such as this does little to nothing to demonstrate the hard work they have put in throughout the semester. 

The burden that final exam season has on students has driven us to a point where we willingly set aside our wellbeing just for a grade. If professors were to take other routes, think that students would do better both academically and mentally.