The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Although finals week means no classes, it is notorious for being one of the most stressful times of the semester. Many students dread finals not only because of the vast amount of content being tested but also because the stakes are so high. Finals that are worth so much of a grade place a huge mental health burden on students and are intrinsically unfair.
From a professor’s perspective, I do see why finals are important. They show how effective the professor’s teaching and each student’s understanding was overall throughout the semester. They are also a good way to review all of the material for a class before it finishes, giving students one last chance to fully understand and ask questions on the content.
However, the one to two weeks before final exams are oftentimes a super stressful period for students because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to review. This issue is actually so severe that one study found that suicide rates in people under 25 peaked during exam season, and around 30% of people who committed suicide in that age group were anticipating an exam or exam results.
The last couple weeks of the semester also tend to be pretty heavy in workload, so there is not always time to study ahead as professors love to recommend. This causes a lot of students to end up cramming just a few days before. Cramming, while seemingly effective for some exams, is never a good test-taking strategy because the information learned goes in short-term memory and does not have time to be transferred to long-term memory.
Students who may be doing well in a class can do significantly poorer on a final and have their final grade lowered because of how heavy finals are weighted. This also works vice versa, where a student who is not doing so well in a course can have their grade increased by a final. However, neither of these final grades are really a reflection of the overall performance of a student throughout the semester, which is what I believe grades should measure.
If it were up to me, I would not weigh finals as heavily as they are for most classes. Instead, professors should increase the weight of other assignments that encourage healthy studying habits. For example, some of my classes have quizzes every week or every other week, with lower weight on exams. I prefer this structure because the quizzes force me to study a little bit of the content each week. The quizzes are also pretty low stakes because there are so many of them, so it is definitely a minimal stress assignment. I always find that when test day comes around, I do not need to spend as much time studying as I do for exams in other classes. I have already learned the material, and studying for such exams consists of just reviewing content, doing some practice problems, and asking questions.
Each student has a different learning style, so this may just be my perspective. However, I do stand by my opinion that final exams, while necessary, should be a little more low-stakes to ease the pressure off of students in the final weeks of each semester.