It’s finals week at East Carolina University, and if the stress hadn’t already set in for many students, it definitely has now. Between long hours in Joyner, sleepless nights, and trying to study everything you learned during the semester in a week, it’s no wonder why students dread finals week so much. So my question is, why do we have them?

Sure, finals are seen as essential to many as they reflect the student’s knowledge that was gained in the course. Usually, they are cumulative and touch on key points from each unit covered, but sometimes professors will have final exams that cover the last few points learned. These exams are usually worth a hefty amount and can seriously affect the outcome of a student’s final grade in the class.

So, students are expected to retain everything they have learned in a class, along with the other classes they are taking, for a test which they will more than likely take back to back with their other tests. There is a limited time to study, especially when you need to study for multiple exams, and this, in part with the little amount of sleep students usually get during finals week, can impair a student’s ability to take their final.

Not only does this seem unethical to me, but it is also unfair for those students who may not be the best test takers. A student can have extensive knowledge on a subject and do great on their projects and writing assignments, but not perform so well on tests. This doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t learn anything in the class, but that this method of assessing their knowledge may not be the most accurate.

As for the students that usually do perform well on their tests, they still may not be able to take it at their full potential due to many reasons, such as lack of sleep, stress, limited time to study, etc. Yet, out of all of the exams that they did well on, this is usually the one that affects their final grade the most.

I have three final exams being held the same day this week, each only an hour or so apart from each other. This is nothing new to me, as I’ve had multiple finals fall on the same day before. But that’s not to say that it hasn’t imposed a great amount of stress on me, as I am concerned I won’t be able to perform adequately on these tests. Cramming information from three separate courses that will be assessed in three tests within a short duration of time and being expected to remember everything seems nearly impossible.

I believe that professors should provide the option for students who have a sufficient grade in the class to be able to opt out of the exam if they feel like it will negatively affect their grade. I also think that professors should adapt new approaches to measuring a student’s intelligence, such as projects, that can display a student’s knowledge in a creative way. This allows for a student to think and apply this subject knowledge in a new way, unlike memorizing terms and definitions that will be tested by marking in answers on a scantron.

In my opinion, final exams should not serve to assess a student’s knowledge of a course, but I am aware that they will still be a requirement here and at most universities, and that doesn’t look like it is changing anytime soon. However, professors should consider new approaches to assess a student’s knowledge. This provides students the opportunity to perform at their full potential.

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