Don’t let the weight of finals bring you down

by | August 22, 2016 | in Opinions | No Comments

The taste of red bull is bitter in your mouth as you take sips from your third can of the stuff. Your eyelids are heavy and begin to roll down, obscuring your vision. The words in your textbook blur together as the minutes continue to dwindle down and you can only make out the glaring red 1:17 a.m. on your digital clock. In a last ditch effort to stay awake, you shuffle the 20 pages of notes. It does no good. You forget about the semester’s worth of material you’ve been trying to review and put your head down. Not even your anxiety for the impending test can keep your eyes open. This is finals week.

The enormous emphasis put on final exams needs to stop. The last two weeks of any semester have snow balled into terrifying trials that have become mere legends of sorrow in the minds of students. Why do we do this to ourselves. Is putting so much value and importance of one test really beneficial to the education of the student? I say no.

The grand importance placed on finals freaks students out. Not only do they have to review a whole semester’s worth of material, but they usually end up trying to remember it all in a very short period of time. This leads to cramming. Staying up late cramming for a final is not only a difficult way to learn, it can also be very harmful to your health. According to study cited by nydailynews.com, it is found that the long term effects of sleep deprivation can contribute to the onset of disorders such as bipolar depression and anxiety. The short term effects of sleep deprivation, as such caused by cramming during finals week, can be nearly as harmful. Research at both Harvard and UC berkeley have found that while pulling an “all night-er” can actually put you in a state of euphoria due to a release of the chemical dopamine, however those feelings are soon followed by an increased risk of addiction and impulsive behavior.

The weight of finals and it’s contribution to the practice of cramming can not only be harmful to your health, but may be just as detrimental to your learning. According to teaching.monster.com, many colleges in the future will drop the format of final exams altogether and replace them with papers, projects, group presentations, and take home tests. This trend shows that more schools are realizing that the final exam format does not actually help students learn. At best, cramming a semester’s worth of content into a few days of studying tests someone’s skill in memorizing facts and material rather than having a deep understanding of the content. Which raises the question: if finals do not help us learn, then why do we put so much weight on them?

Many say that finals are important and play a major role in the education. According to teaching.monster.com, American schools and college professors have been using some form of the final exam format since the 1830’s. Many educators believe that the final exam is the way to  see what a student has learned over the course of a year and a documentation of the final grade that a student has earned in a course. When looking at the way grades are determined one might understand why the final exam has been an instrumental part of the american education system. But the issue is finals don’t help you learn. When a teacher makes it so the final exam grade has a larger influence on the final course grade as whole, putting more stress on the final, it makes things less beneficial in the grand scheme of understanding concepts and content.  

The culture of finals week is one of loosing sleep and memorizing content for the sake of a letter grade rather than the sake of learning. The large emphasis we put on finals is neither helpful nor healthful and a change needs to be made.