Comprehensive final exams fail to truly test course results

By Sara Strever 2010

It’s near that time. In the back of students’ minds, they are wondering about finals. Whether the thoughts run to a flashback of an all-nighter you pulled last year or what this year’s tests are going to be like, the majority of students are thinking about it.

Occasionally, you hear a student ask why do we have to know this, and then the teacher will reply because it is on the final.

Then the student will ask why, and the teacher will reply because it prepares you for higher education and a life beyond high school.

But, are finals really a necessity? From what I see, they have two major points to them: they prepare you for college and show if you really have learned something in the past 18 weeks.

What if I can show you counterpoints to these strong arguments?

Would you listen? Of course, because who likes studying or taking up time to study and rememorize material for tests that you have already taken.

First point, will the finals prepare you for college?

Currently, many colleges are moving away from the idea of comprehensive finals.

In the social work department at UNI, the majority of the professors do not give comprehensive finals.

The social studies department follows similar reasoning.

“There are (a) few professors who do decide to give comprehensive finals, but many do not. It really varies from professor to professor. In my own classroom I have three tests and a research paper. Their (his students) final is the last unit test. It is really a matter of preference; I do not give comprehensive finals because I think it is easier for the students to focus on the lateral part of the course, that they just learned. Finals here are often not comprehensive, but one question,” Social Studies Department Head at UNI Dr. Robert Martin said.

From my personal experience, my brother, Ben Strever, is a sophomore attending a four-year college.

In the past three semesters he has yet to have a single comprehensive final. He has been in classes that offer the opportunity to take a final for a chance that it might improve your grade, or to simply take the grade that you have earned for the past semester.

For this argument, it seems that taking a comprehensive final in high school for the sake of preparing you for college wouldn’t make sense if most college finals simply cover the latest material since the last class evaluation.

Another argument is that finals are a productive way to show what you have learned over the course of semester.

But shouldn’t the past tests that you have taken represent how much you actually comprehended the material?

Also, the majority of our comprehensive finals are multiple choices. Multiple choices are the kind of information that is usually factual and can be easily looked up.

It is good to memorize formulas and dates, but the truth is if that is the field of life we decide to pursue, then we can look them up on the Internet, notes or textbooks.
I think if we do have to have some sort of final, it would be much better to have a project or a paper that we could complete.

This would not only force you to understand the material, but to actually apply your knowledge, which is the ultimate goal of high school and education.

It would also teach about using time wisely; projects are much harder to do the night before in comparison to studying.

With studying it is easy to fool ourselves and make excuses and say that we are ready; we really aren’t.

With projects there is a definite line that you can see if you did your best or if you are finished with project or not.

We also have to think in a sense of reality, in an ideal world, all students would study a little bit every night, so that way they don’t have to cram the nights before. But this is definitely not an ideal world.

Even the most prepared students will fret and continue to study and cram the night before.

Cramming causes stress and stress causes sleep deprivation, which the time to be sleep deprived is definitely not the night before your finals.

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