Finals may not be going away, but we can improve them. At the end of each semester, students are required to take a final in each of their classes. That can be upwards of seven finals over the course of two days. These finals cause students too much unnecessary stress and anxiety.
I know, it’s an overused argument that finals cause students anxiety and stress. However, this argument is often focused on how that stress affects students prior to taking their finals and not during. A study by the American College Health Association reported that 34% of students felt that the stress of taking the final negatively impacted their performance. It is not a debate about whether or not finals cause students stress; it’s an argument about how the stress from finals impacts students.
To review, some common symptoms of stress are physical pain such as headaches. It also affects the quality and amount of sleep an individual gets. It can cause people to get sick, not only by throwing up from the nerves but also causing them to get a cold or the flu, because the stress is weakening their immune system. These tests that force students to recall information that they have learned over months is causing more than just their heart to race, it’s affecting their quality of life. Not even just for finals week for a lot of people but for the weeks prior to finals and after.
However, project finals are far less stressful than regular finals. They don’t ask you to remember everything you learned that semester, just what you learned in the last few weeks. Therefore, it just seems like any regular test, not something that will make or break your grade.
Additionally, finals are simply too long. Taking a test that is designed to take over an hour to complete with no breaks is absurd. Some may say that people do this at work all the time, sitting for a long period of time while working without any breaks. However, there is a major difference between doing daily work for over an hour and taking a stress inducing test for the same amount of time.
The brain cannot function as well as it can when it is being used for hour long stretches with no breaks. A study by the University of New Hampshire states that the brain can only keep true focus for a maximum of 45 minutes. After that, the function of the brain starts to decrease. Therefore, these finals are not even set up for students to do their best. Breaks at 30 minute intervals would be very beneficial to the students because it would allow their brains to rest and allow the students to get themselves together and get focused again.
Nevertheless, people will still argue that if we change the way finals work at high school they won’t prepare us for college. Well that is the whole point. We need to change the way finals work at the high school level so that we can then change them at the college level. Finals don’t need to be these ridiculously stressful exams that affect students’ quality of life. They need to be redesigned so that they are a proper assessment of students’ knowledge.