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Final Exams - Are They Really Necessary?

Updated on June 11, 2011

How Important are Final Exams?

What is the real purpose of writing final exams? How important are they and who benefits most from them?

While there is no plan to eliminate final exams, I can't help but wonder how much students gain from writing such exams and I plan to explore this issue further...

For example, if students don't attend classes for long durations of time and can receive passing grades as easily as students who've attended classes regularly, one may wonder where the level of fairness comes in. One may wonder whether it would be more beneficial to have most of the final mark/grade of a course based on the assignments and quizzes performed in class throughout the year instead.

In situations where students miss a lot of classes and perform well on final exams, it's obvious that they have crammed for their final exams or figured out a way to cheat so it doesn't truly measure their level of knowledge.

What, then, is the real purpose in writing final exams?

The Benefits of Final Exams

Photo credit: Steve Thompson/tagsforkids
Photo credit: Steve Thompson/tagsforkids

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Final exams serve a variety of purposes for students and teachers, allowing each group to benefit in one way or another.

Who benefits MOST from final exams?

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Knowledge Retention...

Students know final exams will be written for many of their courses.

This provides a challenge for dedicated students. They know that their knowledge of the material they are learning will be tested at some point. To make life easier, they remain faithful to their studies so they won't need to cram later; they will only need to review their materials.

Dedicated students find great achievement in doing well on a final exam. They know it is one step toward future success.

Education Encompasses A Lot

Education occurs in stages...one small step at a time

Students must fully grasp basic knowledge and information before going on to something more complex.

To promote students who have forgotten most of the knowledge learned - whether because of poor attendance or poor knowledge retention - would cause setbacks during the following school year/s for fellow students and teachers.

Essentially, while those students may go on to become successful in life in their own individual ways, from an educational standpoint they wouldn't be equipped with the necessary facts and skills required to succeed in the classroom.

What do you think is the best method for diagnosing knowledge students possess?

See results

Dedication and Commitment

Essential components of achieiving a good education

Attending school requires an amount of dedication and commitment which too many students lack.

While there are students who work toward education goals, hoping to attain careers in scientific, medical and legal professions - to name a few - there are those who wish to get by on the shirt tails of others. Instead of working hard themselves, they get others to complete their homework assignments and do their best to cheat on tests taken in the classroom.

Catching the Cheaters

Cheaters do a disservice to themselves - and so do those who help others cheat!

Final exams help teachers learn a little more about these students who cheat. It's easier for a student to cheat on an ordinary classroom test, containing multiple choice questions or true/false statements.

However, when I attended school, at least sixty percent of the final exam consisted of questions requiring answers in the form of essays. This is not much of a problem for students who know what they are learning, but for those who are trying to take the easy way out - pretending to know their studies when they are really cheating - it is not as easy to receive acceptable grades.

If it wasn't for final exams, teachers may never catch on to those who get good grades through cheating.

Cheaters in College/University

If cheaters go uncaught, it's likely that colleges and universities could be filled with students who are not worthy to be there, from an academic stand point.

Without final exams, do you think it's possible colleges and universities could be filled with cheaters?

See results

Exceptions to every rule

Of course, there are honest students who do well during classroom assignments and tests but get nervous when writing final exams, causing their minds to go blank, which causes much anxiety to set in.

In these cases, the final exam didn't accurately measure the level of knowledge the students possessed because the exam had no way of determining stress factors present at the time it was written.

Benefits for Teachers

Teachers benefit from students' exam results. When students do well, the teacher looks better than when students struggle to make their grades. Essentially, a student's overall performance in a subject is often a direct reflection on the teacher's performance.

In addition, great teachers use exam results to improve their own work. When they see areas of an exam which most students do poorly on, they reconstruct the area to make it more understandable for students the following year.

Reviewing Information

For diligent students, final exams are basically reviewing information which has been learned

over a period of time.

Students who have been highly motivated achievers in the classroom generally do well at exam time, unless a stressful situation has developed in their lives which causes a temporary setback.

However, students who complete their work sporadically will struggle during exam time because of poor study habits, though in this there is also the exception to the rule.

Becoming Coherent in Thought Processes - A requirement for every day life

Being coherent when writing and completing exams is essential to getting your point across to others.

Regardless of whether final exams truly measure the level of knowledge students possess, students do benefit in important areas when preparing for final exams.

  1. Students learn to organize their thoughts or think more coherently when completing exams, especially when the exams revolve around essay-type questions, as opposed to multiple choice and true or false questions.
  2. When highly motivated students are required to write an essay, they will get the points organized in their minds before putting pen to paper. They don't want to have a jumbled mess of words which makes their reader confused and frustrated.
  3. While many students benefit from memorization skills, others try to make sense of what they are learning so they understand the subjects before them. This way, if they forget the exact text in their notebooks, it won't matter because they understand the principles involved and can have confidence in completing their exams successfully. They won't have to worry because the completion of an exam question hinges on remembering one simple word.

Post-Secondary Education and Final Exams

Final exams are especially important in a post-secondary education setting. Students are studying to apply their knowledge to careers they've chosen, but some students are more dedicated than others.

After graduation, when transcripts are received by potential employers, students with the highest grades will usually be interviewed initially because, on the surface, it appears they know their subject better than others with lower grades.

What Would It Be Like If There Was No Way To Determine Levels of Education? - Living life could be a scarier experience...

Though final exams may not be a foolproof method of evaluating how much knowledge retention students possess, can you imagine if there was no system in place whatsoever?

This may sound like an excerpt from your worst nightmare but, indulge me for a few moments and imagine how you would feel if you lived in such a world as this:

  1. Hospitals are filled with doctors and nurses who don't fully understand the aspects of their jobs. Sick people become sicker and germs spread rapidly.
  2. Operating rooms are occupied by surgeons who don't have the required knowledge to perform procedures safely.
  3. Teachers don't have the level of education some of their highly motivated students possess.
  4. Police officers and investigators can't seem to solve a crime; lawyers and judges are not sufficient at handling the repercussions of people committing crimes.
  5. Business corporations continually go bankrupt because people don't know how to run successful operations.

    Department and grocery stores continue to foreclose because owners don't have the funding to keep the businesses in operation.

  6. Buildings, roads, and bridges collapse because they weren't designed and constructed safely.
  7. The list goes on...

Evaluating Education Levels is Important

It's necessary in sustaining life

It is of vital importance to have a system in place to evaluate the true learning levels achieved by students at all levels of high school and beyond. It is the only way to measure whether a person is ready to be promoted to the next level.

Without such a system in place, how can people be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, on a job when they haven't been proven worthy of their grades in school?

What Do You Think?

Are final exams necessary?

Yes

Yes

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    • eaharis 2 years ago

      Many say that exams are a big source of stress for a student. However that is a good thing, as they are preparing students for post-secondary education, and the workplace. Employers would love a person who works well under pressure.

    • anonymous 3 years ago

      I

      IT IS GOOD

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      exam are necesaary.....bcoz it checks the level if student knowledge..

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      they are surely essential but still i don't like exams

    • LeslieMirror 5 years ago

      It's a great stress, but I still think that it is the most appropriate decision

    • Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Finals check long term retention, which is important. As for cheaters, they are present. I know, I catch them by using different tests and have their answers match the wrong key! They can be caught on tests as easily as on finals. Now for fairness, groups allow weak students to benefit from strong students. This is an unfairness. Bringing students through on the merit of others is unfair.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes- provided the exam tests the skills and knowledge the course actually demanded of the student, and is weighted to affect only the grade only on the portions of the curriculum it can actually examine. For example, there is no way for a written exam to test a student's verbal presentation skills, but it can test for recall of knowledge, reasoning abilities (critical thinking) and writing skills. Tests also provide a student for opportunities to function under stress.

    • Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I think they are because there are many benefits to having it, one major one being discipline, but I think exams should be more practical than they currently are.

    • Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      It depends upon the educational setting. I don't think it should determine the largest share of the grade on the pre-college level, nor most of the grade even on the college level. Their biggest value is helping a student bring together all her has learned over the period the exam covers and gives the teachers a chance to access what the student has learned. OTOH, with readily available cell phones and laptops, I think it's much easier for students to cheat. Some students don't do well under pressure, and some might be half sick or have PMS the day of the exam but have to show up and take it when they are not as physically well or mentally alert as usual.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      of course....they r neccesary evil....

    • Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Unfortunately they probably are necessary! But they should not be the only component of a student's grade.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      final exams are very necessary!

    • Moe Wood 7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I think final exams are necessary. They help cement what the child has learned throughout the year and gives them an idea where they need to put in more time.

    • Stephen Carr 8 years ago from Corona, CA

      Final exams are a tradition and that tradition will be hard to break. They do serve some purpose, however. But they should be exams on overall content that needs to be remembered, or is at least useful.

    • stoetzels lm 8 years ago

      Absolutely....They are very important...it challenges us and prepares us for what we have learned....as by definition 'Learning is recollection of knowledge.'

    • AuthorNormaBudden 8 years ago

      Most definitely!

    • Kelsey-Budden-16 8 years ago

      Yeah they are!

      Don't you wanna know if you were really paying attention in school?

      You could get passed on without doing final exams, and them boom! Before you know it, you could be failing! Get kicked out of university or college and have no future at all. You can be too old to go back to school. So what do you do then?

      I hate saying this but...you would have to live on WELL-FARE.

      Unless your really rich of course and you have a daddy that gives you money when you need it. :)

    • Kay 8 years ago

      Yes, they are very important. I'm a big fan of exams in the classroom.

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      I believe so - and feel theyt should count as 1/2 of your grade!

    No

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      • anonymous 4 years ago

        not at all

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        If students do well in the class, they shouldn't have to take exams. The exams are just putting more stress on the student and causes them to get frustrated and upset. Students should not take exams. What's the point of putting a ton of pressure on a student by making them take a huge test on information they already know?

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        it is a kind of stress for students . burden and burden

      • srsddn lm 4 years ago

        I find parents involve even more than what the young students do at primary level. So it is stressful for parents as well. I think it has to be a graded action. As the students grow to higher classes the final exam component may be increased. At lower level the burden of final exam should be minimum.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Definitely not. A big stress on kids. It makes it as if all the tests and quizzes that was already taken seem unimportant. Tests the memory but not the knowledge. Creates a lot of anxiety especially at the end of the year when kids just want to throw in the towel. What if they have a bad day or week? Their grades will fall.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        I see no point to it. Students have been tested on this information, and it causes more negative (nervousness/anxiety) than positive.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        no exam are stresslike a chicken on egg

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        For the most part...are just stressors.....there should be a more holistic approach to learning not based on cramming all the knowledge learned into a final paper, where nerves play a big factor in screwing it up. This can cancel out all previous well done work in the subject.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        If teachers cannot evaluate a student over 16 weeks of a semester, then having a final exam will not do the trick. If teachers are interested in passing knowledge onto students, I would think that having quizzes, tests, and other evaluative methods over the course of the semester would suffice. Final exams are "real old school" and have no place in 21st century education. It is a wasted week and I know first hand that finals are not an indicator of knowledge, but who has the best memory. In addition, if you are hung up on finals, make them long and open book. Nobody practices their career from memory.


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          Kelsey-Budden-16 8 years ago

          Said it up there mama!

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          Zion 8 years ago

          Wow! Your lens is fantastic! I really like it so I gave you 5*. Keep up the god work!..

          Please try to stop by my Top 3 Home Based Businesses lens. I would really much appreciate if you could rate mine too!

          Thank you so much!

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          Andy 7 years ago from London, England

          Very interesting and thought provoking. I suspect it depends partly on the subject. I read physics at university and most of the final mark was from the final exams, which were very stressful and the rest from lab work, written up over a two year period. With physics, I suspect exams are a necessary evil, but maybe they don't all need to be done at the end of the course.

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          Heidi Reina 6 years ago from USA

          I'm with you. Final exams are stressful - evaluations should be done throughout the grading period and culminate in a project that shows what the student has learned. Excellent lens. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

        • jptanabe profile image

          Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

          I just found this lens - great discussion of a tough topic! Assessment is always difficult, and sometimes I think final exams are just a waste of time and unnecessarily stressful. But of course you can't just do away with them! Great job, made me think. Blessed.

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          Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

          If final exams are given, they ought to be given to all. I had a favorite teacher in high school except for two things. She trusted her students and read a book during tests instead of monitoring the students many of whom cheated on the routine vocabulary tests. (This was Latin.) I didn't cheat. The students who consistently had A's on the smaller tests they cheated on were exempt from taking the final exam. I felt this was quite unfair. I think if a student who is ordinarily a consistently good student does not do as well on the final, he or she should have an opportunity to have a supplemental oral exam covering what he or she was weak in to see if the material really was learned but the test for some reason was off or the student was having a bad day. My husband was very good in the lab and orally, and sometimes had the concepts down better than his professors, but he didn't test well.

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          Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          I believe exams are necessary and useful, however, they need to be more practical and should encompass various aspects some of which you've discussed in this well-written lens...great topic...**Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

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          jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

          Depending on the subject, finals can be worth it (such as if it's a project). I feel like it makes a lot more sense to have minireviews and tests during the entire period of a course that constantly makes students study the new and old material is a lot more sensible than a final exam at the end that encompasses material that hasn't been looked over since the beginning of the semester.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I think you took a very interesting standpoint on final exams however I felt your opinion on students who miss a lot of school was not necessarily true. This past year I missed school for a community service trip and when I was very sick. I however took a great deal of time working on catching up on my work and did not cheat to regain my good grades. I still agree with your opinion about other grades being more important than finals, just not your reasoning.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Actually megb, that's the great benefit of final exams; it forces students to review all the course material.

          If a teacher is not requiring periodic review of previous material, he or she is doing the students in the class a great disservice. In a properly designed and executed course, the final exam should be looked at as a last chance for students to show the instructor that they have mastered material they previously struggled to understand, thus allowing a more accurate (and fair) final course mark to acknowledge that improvement.

          Furthermore, there is some pretty good evidence that the simple fact that a class has a comprehensive final exam will improve student learning.

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          @anonymous: OOPS! I meant to reply to jimmyworldstar's interesting comment, not meg's equally interesting one!

          Sorry dave

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