Is final exam necessary for university students?

By Nurul Saadah

“Student: Dr. Einstein, aren’t these the same questions as last year’s physics final exam?

Dr. Einstein: Yes; But this year the answers are different.” – Albert Einstein

As the calendar flips, month to month, week to week, suddenly it’s already the end of the semester. How fast time flies, right? What is waiting for the students after that? The answer is that they are much closer to the dreaded FINAL EXAM WEEK.

A final examination, an annual exam, or simply final, is a test given to students at the end of a course of study. According to dictionary, final examination is a test given at the end of a period of coursework to determine whether the student has adequately learned the material covered during that period.

The purpose of the test is to make a final review of the topics covered and an assessment of each student’s knowledge of the subject. Not all courses or curricula culminate in a final exam as instructors may assign a term paper or a final project for some courses. The weighting of the final exam also varies. It may be the largest or carries the same weight as a midterm exam.

For many university students, sleepless nights spent cramming and hand cramps from furious writing are inevitable part of an exam season, therefore, they are unavoidable part of university routine. It is a fact that the anxiety level for the students increases as the final exam approaches.

However, has anyone ever wonders about the necessity of this final examination? If we are about to interview people, there must be those with necessary and unnecessary answers. Then, it is a question on what basis they stand for their answer.

It is crucial to understand the importance of something first as it will not exist if there is no value. There must be positive outcomes from this final exam. On the other hand, when there are pros, there are cons too. Thus, from analysing the advantages and disadvantages, it may provides the idea on whether the final exam is necessary to university students.


Finals can make or break a grade

One exam accounts for such a large portion of a student’s grade for the semester. Most of the time, the final exam marks are helpful to determine whether the students will pass that certain subject or not. The tests have the ability to bring that borderline-D grade (a failing grade) up to a passing grade with just one exam. If there is no exam that accounted for large percentage of students’ grades, they would no longer have the opportunity to drastically change how they do at the end of the semester.

Increase Spirit of Competition

Besides individual task in course assessment, the final exam is the other way of analysing student’s capability. On top of that, it is one hundred percent students’ idea and hard work as they are not depending on other people and sources. Therefore, there will be a sense of competitiveness in themselves to get the best score. This pushes the limit of a person’s ability to do more and work hard in improving their knowledge and skills.


Exams are unreliable measures of learning

In an essay for The Chronicle, “Final Exams or Epic Finales?,” Anthony Crider argued that in “devoting the last few hours of a course to a final exam, instructors waste a valuable opportunity to motivate students to continue thinking about the material outside of the classroom. Instead of a final, he asked, why not offer a finale? “The final exam closes the book on a semester of learning,” Crider added. “An epic finale primes the students to discuss the topic for weeks (or years) to come and to leave the classroom amid a bit more awesomeness than when they arrived.”

In this context, it means students will not achieve all theory and practical elements just by ending the course with a two-hour exam. Philosophy professor, Annie Larivée, usually includes exams in her history-based courses, but has dropped them from many of her other classes. She says courses that deal with contemporary topics run better without final exams because they “are not a matter of just learning facts that are already established, but more about developing a capacity to make sense of our experience.”

Other than that, there are many people who get incredible test anxiety, which can cause them to perform poorly and totally screw their entire results. Professor Annie Larivée says this is the other reason to avoid exams as she has seen students break down in panic attacks.

Not just that, an exam is not only a test of academic knowledge, but it is also a test of calmness, stability and courage. Some people also get sick the night before the final. Thus, they are not able to fully deliver their knowledge and understanding when answering questions. This leads some people to question either it’s fair for students’ grade to suffer because of that. Therefore, it is impossible to get a clear idea of someone’s true performance based on this final exam as they are not providing accurate measures of students learning.

Based on reading and observation, final exam somehow shows more negative outcomes than positive one because it is portrayed as overly damaging the students, mentally and physically. There are even suggestion that a series of shorter and more spread-out tests would be a much more effective way to measure a student’s capabilities. In addition, projects and assessments involving collaboration and communication with many people as well as field work are seen to be more effective in ensuring the high level of knowledge acquisition in students as they are done practically.

Although there are many weaknesses regarding the final exam system, we should still regard it as necessary and practical. Instead of abolishing this system, it is better to improve the lacking based on certain aspects like the necessity of a country, university, subject and its course outline. Exam must be aligned with both the course’s content and its specific learning objectives. It should be able to enhance the learning skills and understanding of students better.

Most importantly, for the students, it is their responsibility to study, gain knowledge and then apply them. No matter whether it is in project or final exam. Students need to strive for the best in everything they are doing.

Surely, there will be obstacles, and we cannot run away from it. It is important to keep learning as the more we learn, the more we realise how much we do not know. As stated by Imam Shafi’i, “If you cannot stand the fatigue of study, you will feel the poignant of stupidity.” ***

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