I’m going to take the “hinder” side but do it from the college aspect. I will admit that reviewing the information is a good thing in a course that serves as a pre-requisite for a continued study, but, otherwise, final exams harm students’ grades more than they help. In a way, exam scores are more of a matter of luck than study skills, and often they are weighted far too heavily. Beside that, sheer numbers will tell you that the process really doesn’t work. It may be necessary for an end of the semester grade of some sort, but there has to be a better way of doing things.
Anybody who has ever went to college knows that exam schedules can be hectic. Sure, they are announced before the semester starts, but it doesn’t seem fair that a student carrying a 15 hour course load should have three or four of his five exams in one day. It happens! Often the only recourse is to not study for a particular exam in order to prepare for others. Back in the day, I let several A’s turn into B’s in order to maintain lower grades in other classes. You simply have to do what you have to do.
Also, in many classes finals count for 25-50% of the final grade. This makes 15 weeks worth of papers, exams, and quizzes almost not worthwhile! Personally, I think anything greater than 25% is unjustified and serves no other purpose than to undermine a semester’s worth of good work. Once again, even in the so-called real world there is no equivalent to getting ready for three exams in a day, and expecting anything short of the worst in such a situation is crazy!
Finally, numbers work in mysterious ways. If a student has a 92% average in a class where the final counts a third and he scores an 85% on the exam, he will drop to a B for the course. Reverse the numbers…85% for the semester with even a 95% on the final…and the result is still a B. What I’m trying to say is that under normal conditions (let alone a one day finals marathon), finals, in most cases, can only serve to lower a grade. About the only thing a student can do is hope against the worst. It’s a system designed with failure in mind!
I do think reviewing course material is important, but adjusting the academic weight of these monstrosities would be a good idea. Perhaps allowing the student to choose a percentage beforehand would be a good option. That way if he is on the borderline, the exam can actually do some good. Otherwise, I don’t see why a final should carry more weight than any other exam.