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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Students question effectiveness of final exams

Students question effectiveness of final exams


The clock ticks down the three hours as you sit in the lecture hall full of students frantically scribbling down essays and shading in the bubbles on their scantrons. Your professor stands in the front to make sure no one cheats and to have his eyes on everyone. Students have their caffeine in UMW mugs on one side of them, extra pencils and paper on the other.

As you try to remember all the information for your biology final, you push to the back of your mind all the memorized flashcards for the history final you have two hours after biology. You wonder why your professors could be so cruel and assign you finals after they have suffered through them too. They say they know they suck. Well then why do they still assign them? I thought we were their favorite class. You wonder how you will ever finish in time and ask yourself, “should I have studied harder, or am I good?”  

As the semester nears the end, professors are starting to bring up a topic no one is excited for, final exams. Along with that topic comes the fear and dread that you will ruin your grade point average if you mess up on an exam. While some professors assign projects or papers, the majority assigns tests. Though there are those lucky few who do not stress about finals because they are naturally good test takers, the majority of us spend days preparing for and dreading those three-hour tests. But are projects, papers and presentations preferred by students because they are a better representation of material learned during the semester?

As a student who has never been very good at test-taking, final exams are not a very good way for me to prove that I know the material. I have always loved to write, so having a paper to write instead of a final to study for is preferred by me. I have also always been more of a creative person, so projects are also a great way for me to demonstrate I know the material I have spent all semester learning. Also, exams are not always a good way to showcase what you have learned.

Samantha Litchford, a senior majoring in political science, feels that “final exams, especially if they are multiple choice, don’t show what you know, they show what you remember and what you’ve memorized.”

However, some professors do not feel that way or find giving a test easier than assigning a project. There is always going to be that class where you aren’t given a way out of taking a test by writing a paper or doing a project, so you always need to be prepared and ready to hit the books a little harder for that class.

Learning good study techniques and knowing effective ways to remember information is key, and can make taking your test easier. It will leave you feeling way more confident in yourself than if you went in without studying.  Emily Ferguson, a senior majoring in biology, says that though she still stresses over finals, she almost always feels confident going into a test. “I’ve always been a good test taker,” she said. “And I know how to study effectively, so if I know how to get that done there’s not much to worry about.”

For those of us that differ from Ferguson, it just means we have to study that much harder and learn effective studying techniques.

With finals ahead of us, it is time to start breaking out the books, studying and going to those last-minute review sessions. Good luck on your finals, everyone, and remember, once finals are over, it is winter break.