It’s June and you’re ready for school to end. You can already imagine the freedom of warm summer days, the sun on your back, and the relief of no more assignments. Academics are the last thing on your mind. But wait – they need to be. Why? Because you still need to take finals. All of sudden you’re flipping through your thick binders, looking for material you got in the first month of school. You need to review concepts that you haven’t thought about in 8 months. You’re a nervous wreck – dreading finals week, when you’ll be tested on every topic you’ve learned in every class you have. You prepare as well as you can, and just hope that you can cram enough of the year’s information into your head to pass the tests that make up such a large percentage of your grade.
The above situation is one that hundreds of students have gone through during their high school experiences. Many schools across the state and country administer finals that test all the material learned in certain classes over the course of the year. In most cases, the grades students receive on these tests make up significant portions of their grades: anywhere from 20% to 50% or more. 3 years ago, Morris Hills switched from a finals system to a quarterly system in which exams are given at the end of every quarter instead of at the end of the year and the grades in each exam are averaged together to make up a fifth of a student’s final grade. Though some students may protest the addition of more tests over the course of the year, quarterlies actually represent a much more efficient system, both for students and teachers.
The truth is that administering a single exam at the end of the year puts excessive amounts of stress on students. There’s a reason some of the top universities in the world are getting rid of finals. Harvard University and other top colleges stopped requiring final exams over 5 years ago because they represent an “antiquated method of learning” and cause concerning stress levels among the student body. In fact, a study by the National Institute of Health showed that stress levels rose over 150% during finals weeks at most colleges, compared to only 80% at colleges using quarterly systems. When students only have to remember material from the past 2 or 3 months, much of which they have recently been assessed on, they tend to be much more comfortable than if they have to study an entire year’s worth of content. So although you may need to take more tests, each test is significantly easier and less stressful.
Quarterlies are better for your grades, too. Who would complain about that? In a finals system, one poor grade on a test can negatively and permanently impact a student’s grade for the year. In contrast, one bad grade on a quarterly has significantly fewer ramifications, because of the chance to offset that poor grade with strong performances on the other 3 quarterlies. Logically, your chance of scoring better on each individual quarterly is higher, because only a fourth of the information is being tested each quarter compared to a final.
By the end of the year, it’s unrealistic to expect students to demonstrate their knowledge of concepts from early in the year. Quarterlies provide a way to test students’ knowledge without expecting them to use concepts that they haven’t put into practice for a significant amount of time. Research also shows that testing students more frequently throughout a year compared to a cumulative exam is a better indicator of the student’s performance. Though some students prefer finals because it avoids multiple tests throughout the year, quarterlies are in the best interests of students in the long run by being easier to score well on and avoiding excessive anxiety. Teachers and students should both be in support of the testing system that accurately reflects performance, gets better grades, and keeps everyone less stressed. Are you?