The ongoing debate of finals

Christian Leong, Author

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Each semester, finals are taken to test a student’s accumulated knowledge gained during the semester in a class. Although the concept of finals has been around forever, there are and always will be questions surrounding its legitimacy. Are finals necessary? Are they an accurate representation of class material learned during the semester? Should students who are acing the class be forced to take the dreaded tests? The Paly Voice investigates arguments on both sides, for and against finals.

Are finals Necessary?
First off, from the perspective of how the system operates right now, if you are in any weighted class (AP or honors), the answer to this question is a definitive “yes” because the University of California system requires a standard test for weighting purposes, according to Assistant Principal Kathleen Lawrence. Otherwise, it is mainly up to each department to decide the kind of final, the length of the final, and whether one is necessary at all. While many students fear having to recall an entire semester’s worth of material in a week, one reason teachers encourage finals is to prepare students for college.

“If we don’t have finals and you head off to college without a final, it’s a daunting thing,” Lawrence said.

According to Spanish teacher Emily Garrison, finals are especially important in cumulative classes as they are and are a helpful checkpoint to see if students are building on the concepts learned during the semester.

“In Spanish, information layers upon itself,” Garrison said. “You have to make sure that you understand all of the steps to get to the final product, so having a large cumulative test allows me to see if students have reached those prior expectations.”

Are finals an accurate representation of material learned during the semester?

While finals are normally a cumulative test on all material taught throughout the semester, it is debatable whether a student can really show what they have learned on one big test.

Junior Britt D’Arezzo said that there needs to be much more preparation time before finals.

“When you only have two days to review in class for finals, you are going to remember the units done recently,” D’Arezzo said. “I think it would be a more accurate representation if you had more time to study.”

Sophomore Andrew Ho believes that the format of finals could be improved to help show the knowledge learned during the semester.

“Test taking ability varies,” Ho said. “Projects would be effective as they could access a large range of skills that are required [for the class], and some people also suck at tests.”

Although Garrison believes that finals are necessary, she says that the representation of material taught during the semester depends on the type of final.

“It depends on the course, some teachers might have a final writing assignments, some might have a cumulative final,” Garrison said.

Should students with A’s in the class be required for finals?

Although finals are indicative of all material learned during the semester, the standard is that all students take finals, even ones who have shown mastery in the subject, earning an A grade during the semester.

With finals covering material already tested, senior Lauren Gargiulo said she disagrees with the standard.

“They [the students] have already been tested on all the subjects and prove that they know it,” Gargiulo said.

Junior Alex Bonomi believes that the standard helps students finish the semester strong, as it promotes good habits.

“Otherwise you can just slack off and not do the finals,” Bonomi said. “Which can possibly promote bad work habits among students at the end of the semester.”

Finals are not likely to change in the near future. While they are not perfect, hence the varied opposition to it, they are the standard  with which most classes test students on the material learned during the semester.