Finals: A test? Or just added stress?

WSPN%27s+Delia+Caulfield+discusses+the+absence+of+final+exams+this+year+due+to+the+pandemic+and+their+negative+effects+on+students+stress+levels+at+the+end+of+the+school+year.

Credit: Delia Caulfield

WSPN’s Delia Caulfield discusses the absence of final exams this year due to the pandemic and their negative effects on students stress levels at the end of the school year.

Delia Caulfield

This year, Wayland High School has not mandated final exams for students. This decision came as a result of the pandemic and ensuring the safety of students and staff. Many hold different opinions as to the effectiveness of these tests and their true effect on students’ learning. Although these exams seem purposeful for teachers, I feel that they have a more negative than positive effect on students’ stress, and it’s beneficial that they aren’t being held this year in particular.

The pandemic has been an obvious source of anxiety, as students have been confined to their homes for months on end. Further, Wayland High School students only returned to school around one month ago, and the route to normalcy is only just beginning. Most tests create some form of added stress for students, and finals are no exception. However, final exams are so significant to students’ overall grades that they add a new aspect of pressure to students’ lives. In fact, during a typical year, 10% of students’ final grades are composed of the grades they receive on their midterm and final exams, which occur at the end of the first and second semester of the school year. These tests prove to be some of the most important tests that students will receive all year and are a vital part of students’ overall high school grades.

The goal of final exams is to test students’ knowledge on a variety of topics learned throughout the semester. The content can range from more recent subjects taught to areas that were covered months ago. Although teachers do prepare students for these exams in the weeks prior, I find it unrealistic to assume that students will be able to recall a variety of different topics on one test, especially in this year in particular. To me, it just feels like unnecessary added stress.

As a result of COVID-19 last spring, final exams weren’t administered. Additionally, the midterm exams that were taken after the second quarter in 2020 ultimately weren’t factored into students’ final grades. This came as a relief for many students, including myself, as these exams were challenging and contained questions that were touched upon much earlier in the year. Every student is different, however, I feel that these exams can affect students’ mental health, especially towards the very end of the school year.

Many have expressed their dislike towards these exams, as they occur at the very end of the school year, therefore creating high stress levels at a time when work typically winds down. Many WHS students, such as junior Lily Noyes, reiterate this point by expressing how the anxiety surrounding finals puts a damper on the end of their school year.

“I think finals are usually a lot of stress and worry at the end of the year, and I think this year has been super non-traditional, so it’s nice that we’re able to just kind of focus on learning rather than the stress of final exams,” Noyes said.

Unlike students, who rarely look forward to the administration of this exam, many teachers feel that these tests are vital to students’ learning. Despite this, many concur that the uncertainty and added stress on students during this year, in particular, should be taken into account.

“[Finals] are a nice way of recapping the whole year and making sure that the students retain the information throughout the year, which is important,” math and computer science teacher Michael Hopps said. “This year’s a little crazy, so letting that go and reducing the stress is something I’m okay with.”

My wish for final exams going forward is that students are better prepared earlier in the year. Additionally, if the content in the final exams was brought up continuously throughout the year and connected to future curriculum, final exams wouldn’t be as stressful. I feel that teachers often forget how students are learning a variety of topics from all of their different classes, which makes it difficult to remember specific topics that were taught earlier.

Overall, I’m happy with the decision to not hold final exams this year due to the pandemic. However, I feel that there are steps to be taken to decrease the negative mental health impacts that are associated with these tests. Is the administering of one exam truly worth all of the added stress that comes with it?