Why we need to bring back final exams


Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

On September 8, 2015 the Montgomery County Board of Education unanimously voted to get rid of final exams starting in the 2016-2017 school year.  This change was met with great enthusiasm from most students, myself included.  I mean, what student likes testing?  We had to study so much for final exams, considering they covered a whole semester’s worth of material.  Ditching final exams for Required Quarterly Assessments (RQAs)  not only seemed like a good move because we wanted less work, but also for our education.  Now we wouldn’t have to memorize so much information just for one test, and instead it would be broken down to four relatively big tests every quarter with less material.  Doesn’t that sound like a reasonable plan?

Although it might sound like a good replacement of final exams, the results were not great when put into practice.  Not only is the quarterly assessment not an effective test, but it gets rid of the benefits that final exams once gave us.

First, let’s start with why the quarterly assessment isn’t a good test.  The quarterly assessment is a very complicated and odd test in most subjects; it’s anything but straightforward.  Although I have found the Math RQAs to be fairly basic for the most part, RQAs for other subjects are a lot more tricky.  Quarterly assessments don’t truly test whether a person accurately knows the material.  The title of “Required Quarterly Assessment” is very deceiving.  I’ve taken RQAs this year where there was material from different quarters on the test, when I had thought it was supposed to be on material from the current quarter. In addition, RQAs seem to always test on just one or two things from the whole quarter.  Let’s say those two things the test is on are one of your weaker suits, then you will likely get a bad grade, but the test didn’t actually test your knowledge from most of the material in the quarter.

I actually just took an RQA where most of the test  was based on material we had just learned the day before.  How are we as students supposed to do well on a test that is on material that we’ve barely received instruction on?  And it also doesn’t help that teachers don’t treat the quarterly assessment like a big deal at all.  When we had final exams, teachers would take plenty of class time and give us strategies and study guides in order to do well on the test.  However, since RQAs are only 10% of our quarterly grade, teachers don’t take much time at all, if any, to prep us.  It is true that RQAs don’t have a huge effect on a student’s grade, but that’s not an excuse for teachers to treat the test like it means nothing.

Is testing a pain?  Yes.  It’s easy to complain about how annoying standardized testing is, but it’s also easy to forget that final exams gave students benefits and flexibility.  Although I haven’t taken a final exam in high school as I am a freshman, it is my understanding that students would simply take a final in the morning, and go home for the rest of the day.  There’s no more of that with RQAs.  Another great benefit of final exams is that high school students would end their school year earlier.  Once a student took his or her last exam, he or she didn’t have to go to school anymore because there was nothing left to do.  Again, I never experienced this because the only final exams I took were in middle school, but it was something I was looking forward to in high school.  But now, with no finals, we have to go to school until the very end while teachers are piling on unnecessary projects and busywork.

Not only did final exams provide benefits in the lives of students in high school, but also for college.  How are students going to be prepared to take final exams in college if we haven’t ever taken one or very few in our lives?  There are no quarterly assessments in college. College is an introduction into the “real world” and if we continue giving out quarterly assessments instead of final exams, we surely will not be prepared for the real world.