We Should Be Trying To Fix Final Exams Instead Of Dreading Them
Start writing a post
Student Life

We Should Be Trying To Fix Final Exams Instead Of Dreading Them

No one likes final exams. But is there any way to improve them?

38
We Should Be Trying To Fix Final Exams Instead Of Dreading Them
Brock University

Thanksgiving break gives us time to relax from a busy semester and enjoy the company of others. It also signals the impending doom of finals week. Let's face it: anything that is preceded by a time period known as "dead week" is never a good sign. Finals week is often make or break time, with exams and papers that hold massive implications to your grades. It pushes you to the limit of your stress and coincidentally is a pretty good economic boost to coffee shops in the area. But is it a good idea to be putting such pressure on students in one week? And is the current format of the final exam really effective?

Let's be clear; lots of people take multiple exams on the same week, and it isn't exclusive to finals week. Most classes run a three midterm schedule, which means most exams are taken within two-week sets in the semester. But finals always hold a little more weight, whether through more points or it being the last chance to salvage your grade. It's been debated for a while now if final exams are really useful in reviewing a student's knowledge of the class. Most exams are scantron based, and are usually cumulative. This means students can, if they really want to, cram for a few days straight and try to use their short-term recall to get a good grade. This is not ideal for instructors, who are tasked to teach, and to ensure their students at least retain a good amount of the course as they progress through their education.

So what can we do? There are already lots of exam alternatives suggested by universities. For example, BYU advises administering oral examinations or group projects, the latter being used more commonly as of late. UC Berkeley suggests professional presentations or using small quizzes and tests to replace high-stakes midterm and final exams. The idea is that these alternatives will encourage the student to try harder as they are a change of pace from normal exams, and should lead to better retention of the class content.

As for the proof that these alternative forms of testing are actually effective, the jury is still out. There are various studies that have been done in the past decade about "high stakes testing," in which only a few exams are given per class that all hold immense weight to the final grade (so essentially midterms and finals). Most of the studies, such as this one published in 2006 by the Center for Public Education, suggest that there might be negative effects of high stakes testing, but research of this kind is not to be taken conclusively.

For some subjects, anything besides a traditional exam may not even be effective. Take math courses or organic chemistry, for example. Both rely heavily on the use of specific equations, formulas, or mechanisms. The best way to test a student's knowledge of this wouldn't be a presentation or a paper. Courses of study like these usually test students through problem solving, so a traditional, write-in exam would benefit this the most. This doesn't mean there aren't ways to refine this, such as spreading point distribution through smaller, frequent tests, or by grading the exam not only for the correct answer, but more for if the student can show some form of understanding of the correct method of solving the problem.

English classes usually hold writing as a cornerstone of the course, so final papers will continue to be the norm. Whether it would be worth it to assign more papers to lessen the weight of the final remains to be seen. The same could be said for classes where oral presentation is required, such as a speech class. For these kinds of subjects, there doesn't seem to be an opportunity to drastically change the direction of the examinations.

Where there might be more variance, are classes that rely on memorization of information, such as many biology classes. In fact, biology lends itself to presentations, posters, and oral exams. So much of biology can be explained by certain pathways that it does seem more useful to test these by having students review these topics outside of simple memorization. Having a student explain a pathway orally, or draw out the steps on a presentation could be just as effective as picking certain parts of the pathway and quizzing the students on it on the exam.

As more and more studies are conducted on testing, we may see a major change in the way exams are done, or we may see nothing at all. Many generations of students have succeeded by the tried and true method of traditional, high-stakes exams, so there might not be a big push to change something that has worked well enough in the past. But that is all in the future. Right now, we've got exams to study for.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

Panic! At The Disco Announces Breakup After 19 Years

Band Makes Breakup Announcement Official: 'Will Be No More'

2816
panic at the disco

It's the end of an era. Originally formed in 2004 by friends in Las Vegas, Panic! At The Disco is no more.

Brendon Urie announced on Instagram that the band will be coming to an end after the upcoming Europe tour. He said that he and his wife are expecting a baby, and the life change weighed heavily in his mind to come to this decision. "Sometimes a journey must end for a new one to begin," he said.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Odyssey's response writer community is growing- read what our new writers have to say!

6663
https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-writing-on-white-book-1043514/
https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-typing-on-type...

Each week, more response writers are joining the Odyssey community. We're excited to spotlight their voices on as they engage in constructive dialogue with our community. Here are the top three response articles of last week:

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

To Mom

There are days when you just need your mom

18312
To Mom

There really is no way to prepare yourself for the loss of someone. Imagine that someone being the one who carried you for 9th months in their belly, taught you how to walk, fought with you about little things that only a mother and daughter relationship could understand. You can have a countless number of father figures in your life, but really as my mom always said, " you only get one mom."

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

The Way People In Society are Dating is Why I Don't Date

I need someone to show that they want me for me, not that they're using me to chase the idea of being in a relationship.

20488
The Way People In Society are Dating is Why I Don't Date
rawpixel

You hear your phone go off. He's asking you to hang out. Then, of course, you get the advice of your friends to decipher this text. Is it just hanging out or is it more than hanging out? You've probably done this at least once in your life or at least seen a tweet where someone posted their screenshots with a potential love interest.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

Winter Break As Told By 'Friends'

Is a month at home too much to handle?

13038

If you're anything like me, winter break is a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel after a long, stressful semester. Working hard for 15 weeks can really take a toll on a person mentally, physically AND emotionally. It's a nice change of pace to be back at home with your family and friends, but after a couple weeks, it can get, well... boring.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments