The question behind final exams

Along with the anticipation of summer as the school year winds down, the wrath of final exams shortly takes over the worry-free feelings as exam week looms and the studying begins.

The purpose of final exams is to test the knowledge gained in each course throughout the year. While yearlong-classes had midterms earlier in the year, they and one-semester classes are both gearing up for final exams.

But the question is–do final exams really test the knowledge retained throughout the year by the student or are they simply just a checkpoint at the end of the year?

If final exams were to simply test the intelligence, or knowledge retained throughout the year, of a student then they would not be weighted as they are now. Final exams, in most cases, are twenty percent of the year grade.

Depending on how well a student does, the exam can certainly impact the student’s grade. If a straight A student has an off day and does not do well on his/her final exam, his/her grade will drop. In this case, the student’s grade would reflect poorly on the year grade.

Straight A’s throughout the year could end up as a B or C by the end because of the bad exam grade. Would this be fair to students? They cannot help an off day.

So are final exams just a checkpoint?

An interesting concept for this is senior exams. If seniors have maintained a 85 average throughout the year, they are able to exempt their exams. In this case, final exams for seniors would indeed be just a check point. It’s a check to see if the senior has learned but if the senior has maintained a B then there is no need to check them.

It is understood that yes they are going to college and some believe they have “earned” the exemption from exams but is this system honorable?

If I knew I could exempt exams with only an 85, I would do anything to keep my grade there or above. This would mean that maybe I would not have to do all assignments and in that case, learn. A final exam tests the knowledge learned and if a senior was not tested, did they really learn?

Another point of this is AP classes. AP classes have their own AP exam but all, with a few exceptions, have no final exam. The reasoning behind this is that the AP exams are the final exam but no grade goes down in the gradebook for it. Although AP students would despise taking an AP exam along with a final exam, this reasoning of no exam could be questioned too.

So, what does an exam test? An exam tests what is learned. It is the students’ job after the teacher has taught it to comprehend and study it. The exam is the final check to see if the student has truly learned.

An exam should test the standards learned.

It should be a test to make sure the student has been paying attention in class and retained the material learned. Not only a test, but also a checkpoint for the teachers. A checkpoint so that the teachers know exactly what was learned and what they may need to do differently in the years to come.

Teachers teach off of essential standards that are supposed to be learned throughout the year. Although a math teacher teaches subjects from triangles to trigonometry, certain state standards must be taught such as how to solve a right triangle or use trigonometry in context.

If a student has comprehended these standards and done their job whether it is studying or doing their homework, exams should not be as stressful.

Although summer is near, exams are first. My advice is simply to do your best. If you have done your best then the grade you receive is well earned, good or bad.

This opinion story was written entirely by myself. I wrote this to analyze the impact/reasoning behind exams. I had editing help from the other people in my section, too.

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