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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

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The Hawkeye June 2024 Issue
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Why do we still have final exams in school?

Why do we still have final exams in school?
©HAWKEYE image credit: Lucas Barquin

It is finally getting to the most stressful time of the year for many students at MTHS and across the state and country: finals season. The time of the year where you hope that this one test is not enough to ruin your entire grade and plans for college, which makes me ask the question: Why do we still have finals at all? To me, one test is not an accurate reflection of the work you do over the entire semester. Especially when in all six of your classes you have a final, it is really not a reflection of what you’ve done all semester when you are studying for all six assessments at the same time.

One of my main problems with finals is that they are generally around ~20% of your grade depending on what class you are in, which is generally a large enough percentage of your grade to be able to lower it significantly, but not a large enough percentage to raise your grade. For example, assuming that in a class, going into a final, you have a solid 85% in the class, a B. And assuming that the final is worth 20% of your grade (and that there is no extra credit), your grade cannot be raised up to an A, but it can be lowered potentially to a D if you fail. The final is effectively just a bigger test to obstruct you from getting a better grade. Additionally, many finals cover material that you’ve already learned and already tested on. If you’ve already learned and tested on this material, what is the point of having a final in the first place? This is especially true if you have already aced the tests and material that the final covers. It just doesn’t make sense to me that you have to do something all over again for no reason except to take a test that is useless in the first place because you already covered the material. 

One problem with regular tests is that a 50 minute-one day test is not really a good representation of what you’ve done for the whole unit that will have probably taken place over weeks. This problem is amplified with finals:this time a whole semester worth of learning is crammed into one day. If you’re having an off day, it can potentially ruin your entire semester grade. That just does not seem right to me. This causes a very high and unnecessary amount of stress that could just be very easily bypassed by not having finals at all. Additionally, on finals covering previous material, you are obviously not going to remember all of the material for all of your classes, and even by doing lots of studying are probably still not going to be able to remember all the material. The only group of people that finals really end up benefiting are those that are really good at memorizing things in a short time period, which is obviously very different from actually knowing the material. Doing well overall in the class does not guarantee that you will do well on the final, while some kids that do well on the final did terribly in the rest of the class. It just doesn’t seem fair compared to other systems.

The finals I’ve had are for the most part multiple choice, which is easy to grade, but I don’t think is actually a good indicator of how much a student knows or has learned throughout the semester. Multiple choice questions are by definition narrow, having a set answer compared to something like an extended response/short essay question which cover the material more broadly and are also more open ended. Even though I still think finals would not be a good system, I still think they could improve by shifting more to just one or a handful of questions covering broader topics and themes taught over the whole semester. The more common format of having just multiple choice questions or mainly multiple choice questions encourages memorization more than anything else. If the goal is to try to actually make sure students understand the material, I think that this would be a better system. But even this would still not be a good system because I still think it would put too much emphasis on one test, and one test is still simply just not an accurate reflection of someone’s knowledge. Putting emphasis on this one test does nothing but contribute to stress and just puts up an obstacle to getting a good grade in a class. Especially if you’ve already done well on the material during the school year, why should you have to take a final to verify what you already know? It just seems like a completely arbitrary standard that serves no real purpose.

Yet another reason why I think finals are not with it is that they just contribute to a lot of stress. Even if they did have some good effects, I don’t think they are worth the stress that they cause. Studying for finals can take up weeks of your life, causing you stress for weeks in your life. The fact that your grades depend on this final is fundamentally what is the root of this stress. Additionally, when you have six of these tests all in the same short period of a couple days, this significantly increases your stress significantly. The amount of work and stress that goes into studying for and taking and waiting for the results of the final is just kind of overwhelming and can be too much to handle. It just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

So why do we have finals at all? They  cause unnecessary stress and drama, discount the value of other work during the semester, and don’t seem to actually meaningfully help in any significant way. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like they serve any real meaningful purpose. You’re just testing on material you already know and have tested on.

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About the Contributors
Evan Kerani
Evan Kerani, Hawkeye Co-Editor-in-Chief
Evan Kerani joined HSM in 2022, after much cajoling by adviser, Vince DeMiero. He hopes that through HSM he will become a better writer and gain journalistic experience. In his free time, he enjoys arguing with people on the internet (and in real life) about politics and also enjoys writing poetry. He also enjoys reading mainly non-fiction books about a variety of topics. After high school he plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and study political science.
Lucas Barquin
Lucas Barquin, News Editor
Lucas Barquin joined HSM in 2022 because he enjoyed writing and wanted to join a group where he could continue writing with others. Lucas’ goal is to write about important topics, and to make every student feel seen and heard. In his free time Lucas enjoys drawing, listening to music and playing D&D. His post high school plans are to attend an art school for graphic design and illustration.
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