The Impact of Final Exams on Student Grades and Learning

Kaylee Everhart

Updated Friday, December 8, 2023 at 9:03 AM CDT

The Impact of Final Exams on Student Grades and Learning

The Role of Final Exams in Assessing Student Understanding

Final exams can significantly impact a student's overall grade, even if they have consistently performed well throughout the semester or quarter. While some argue that the goal of education should be focused on learning rather than solely on grades, placing the most value on the final exam allows for a better reflection of a student's understanding of the material by the end of the course.

It is possible to do poorly on exams throughout the semester and still pass the course if one eventually figures out the material. However, final exams can sometimes be significantly more difficult than previous tests, which can negatively impact a student's grade. This emphasizes the importance of thorough preparation and consistent effort throughout the entire course.

Some professors structure their grading system with a higher weightage on tests to ensure that students have truly learned the material and not relied on cheating. By placing more emphasis on exams, professors encourage students to engage in active learning, critical thinking, and deep comprehension of the subject matter.

On the other hand, homework is seen as practice for demonstrating understanding and should not be heavily weighted in the final grade. Including day-to-day homework in the final grade can allow students who do not understand the material to pass. Therefore, school should prioritize understanding rather than repetitive homework assignments.

Some individuals may argue that they are bad at tests because they did not understand the material in the first place. This highlights the need for effective teaching methods that promote comprehension and retention, rather than rote memorization for the sake of exams.

Weighted averages are commonly used in grading systems to make grades more meaningful and reflective of overall performance. By assigning different weights to various assessments, educators can create a balanced evaluation system that considers both short-term and long-term understanding of the subject matter.

However, exams can hinder the opportunity for students to truly learn new material. The pressure to perform well on a single test can lead to cramming and superficial understanding, rather than deep engagement with the material. Memorizing information for exams and forgetting it afterward can be seen as a waste of time, rather than a meaningful learning experience.

Focusing on understanding and being able to discuss topics in class can demonstrate true comprehension and long-term retention of the material. Relying solely on exams as a metric of progress detracts from actual learning and fails to capture the full range of a student's abilities.

It is important to acknowledge that some individuals may excel in class and understand the material but struggle with test-taking or have a bad day, resulting in an overall lower grade that does not reflect their true ability. Final exams can be a source of stress and anxiety for students, potentially hindering their performance.

A more balanced grading system that includes a variety of assessments can provide a more accurate representation of a student's abilities. By incorporating projects, presentations, group work, and other forms of evaluation, educators can assess different aspects of a student's learning journey and provide a more comprehensive picture of their progress.

Cheating on homework assignments can contribute to the necessity of high-stakes exams. If students are not completing their homework honestly, it becomes necessary for educators to rely on exams as a means of assessment. Encouraging academic integrity and fostering a culture of honesty can help reduce the need for high-stakes exams.

it is crucial to consider the impact of grading systems on student learning and explore alternative methods of assessment. While final exams have their merits in assessing overall understanding, a balanced approach that values comprehension, critical thinking, and long-term retention can provide a more holistic evaluation of a student's abilities. By prioritizing learning over grades, educators can create an environment that fosters genuine understanding and growth.

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