As with many educational dilemmas, the pendulum of the necessity of final exams continually swings from needed to useless and back again. As a teacher of twenty-plus years and as a former student, I have weighed both sides of the final exam issue and been better able to understand why so many high school require finals in core classes and even most elective courses.
Many valid arguments against final exams have been presented. One includes why one test should have so much bearing on a student’s grade. Also many people suffer from test anxiety. These tests can devastate not only an otherwise excellent grade, but they can tear down the self-esteem of the student, too.
However, final exams play an important role in education. One of the most crucial factors is that these tests better prepare students for college. During my four years of high school, the policy for final exams stated those with good attendance of less than three absences and an A-average in a course were exempt from finals. This rule convinced me on many occasions that my health was great. This rule and my parents made sure my grades also satisfied the exemption rule. Not one time was I ever required to take a final exam in high school. Upon entering college again my attendance was great and so were my grades up until the final exam. I truly had no way of knowing if I was studying long and hard enough for that first round of exams. Due to my lack of experience in preparing and taking finals, I scored low enough on three of my six final exams to turn A’s into B’s. Fortunately, I learned how to better prepare for my next round of exams, but I also regretted having always been exempted from those high school exams. Most schools have now addressed this dilemma by only exempting students from a certain number of exams each semester.
As a teacher, these exams are one of the tools I use to help me know what my students’ strengths and weaknesses are for that course. This allows me to adjust the curriculum and teaching techniques for the weaker areas. I also can see my own areas that need improvement. These tests hold both the students and teacher accountable for the course.
Although students will never love final exams, they do play a vital role in education. With proper preparation by both the student and teacher, these tests can be less stressful and a more productive part of the learning experience.