This week's question comes from Rebecca Antony of MICDS. She wants to know what is gained by taking a final exam if the only possibility is that of lowering the grade?
Catherine Toman, St. Joseph's Academy
If a final exam only lowers a student’s grade, then that student must have a very high grade in the class, right? I don’t know what other situation would cause an exam to lower someone’s grade.
So, if I have a 100 percent in a class, and the exam I take will only lower or keep my grade, then why should I have to take it? It has no value.
Curt Walls, Ladue Horton-Watkins
Well if you don't take the exam then you will get a zero and that will really lower your grade. Also, if taking the exam can ONLY lower your grade you probably have over a hundred percent in the class anyway.
However, taking the final exam shows what you have retained over the course of a semester, and it helps teachers determine which areas they need to spend more and less time on the following year.
Victoria Watson, Villa Duchense
Aside from gym class, most every course at any school requires a semester exam, worth 20 percent of the class grade, that is utilized as a way for the teacher to gauge the retention and application of the material covered in the course up to the exam. Exams are the string that ties the semester together, usually.
While from a teaching standpoint, exams are valuable, students are often harmed more than helped by them. In some cases, an exam can make the difference between a B+ and an A-: this is the reward to a student who cracks down and does well on an exam, which raises their final grade in the class.
This grade is only raised if the student scores high on the exam. For students who do not, an exam lowers the final class grade. To me, this does not seem fair to students who have worked hard all semester for a B or an A in a class for their final grade to drop because they could not get a perfect score on their final exam.
I am not against final assessments. I believe they're very helpful in showing the retention of class material. The pitfalls of final exams are that not everything can be perfectly retained, and there are many subjects in which students are being tested over in a short amount of time: 75 minutes to assess the retention of a semester of classes.
Multiple assessments. There should be some change in the exam system, whether it be a dropping in the percentage value towards the final grade, or a rescheduling so that students can maximize their reviewing. Something should change so that students are not penalized by exams.
Molly Soto, St. Joseph's Academy
I personally think that taking final exams when the only outcome is lowing your grade is very pointless. Exams produce enormous amounts of stress in a student's life and if the only thing the exam does is lower your final grade, I believe that is unfair.
If a student has worked hard enough throughout the semester to achieve an A average, they should not be required to take an exam. Unless they score very high on the exam, the only outcome would be a lower class average resulting in a lower GPA.
I believe that unless you need the exam to raise your average, it should not be necessary to take an exam.
I personally believe that there is no value in taking a final exam if it can only lower your final grade. I feel that if you worked hard through out the semester and you receive a good grade, then it is not fair to take an exam that will only lower your grade.
You earned that grade and you should be able to keep it. I do not think that cramming for six different exams over material from a span of an entire semester in one week shows if a person understands the material or not.
I think it shows who can memorize things better and who can still focus when the year is almost finished. I believe that there is no value in taking an exam if the outcome can only be lower than the grade you actually earned in the class.
Rebecca Antony, MICDS
I believe that if kids have the knowledge that this is the case before the term starts then this is perfectly fine. The end goal of the exam is to show whether the student understood and fully retained all the information taught in the course, and so, since grades was just something added tacked on for the practicality of it, I don't think it really matters unless you didn't know this before.
If you knew it before then you wouldn't depend on the exam to "carry" your grade; you'd try all the way through and then try harder on the exam too to try to "maintain" your grade instead of trying to "gain/carry" it.