So, What’s Up With Finals?

Amila Niksic, Writer

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Well, we’ve finally (almost) made it.  In approximately 20 hours, the final bell of the 2017-18 school year will ring on Friday, June 8th at 2:46 PM.  So what are the students doing for the next few days? While a person of usual intelligence might think “I’m not sure, probably learning?” the reality is that students will be cramming for hours a night in an effort to study for their final exams in each class. Final exams are a staple of traditional schooling, with a mandatory test in each class, examining and nitpicking at a student’s knowledge and retention of the material learned over the last nine months. Each class has a a final exam, and each final exam is worth 20% of a student’s overall grade for the whole school year. In other words, a student’s grade on a final exam can make or break their grade for the year. This seems pretty unfair, given that students are faced with a myriad of problems during a testing period, including test anxiety, migraines, nerves, sleep deprivation, etc.  In addition to these issues, students will only see the letter of the grade they got. They will not be able to review their exam to see what they got wrong, nor will they be able to go over the material to make sure they know it. It will simply be “this is what you got, and now you must live with it,” a phrase which is not necessarily encouraging or helpful.

Due to these insights, many school have ended the practice of final exams, including one of Pittsburgh’s own private schools, Winchester Thurston. I wanted the opinion of some of Obama’s own students and faculty members on how final exams should handled, and the opinions were interesting and varied.  Some teachers are okay with final exams, and do not think they negatively affect students in any way. Others, however, believe that finals do not test a student’s knowledge, but are just a way to ‘make or break’ a student’s grade. Students also varied in their opinions. Some students were completely fine with taking exams and enjoy them as a way to have less class time, but others said that their test anxiety and nervousness impedes them from performing their best, and their grades suffer due to that.

In my opinion, finals should be taken, but should not count for much more than 10% of a grade, so that students will study, but not necessarily be hurt if they due poorly.  In addition to basic finals, some students take higher level exams, such as IB tests, or AP (Advanced Placement) tests in each class, testing their knowledge in that subject as well. So, why should a student who was just vigorously tested on a subject have to take another exam for that same subject? In the end, finals are a difficult topic to cover due to the wide range of opinions on whether or not they hurt or help students, so, at least for right now, all students can do is study, prepare, and wish each other “good luck”, on the last day of finals!

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