Students, staff reflect on final exam changes
December 12, 2021
Beginning this semester, DGN will follow a new, less structured system for finals week, which will take place from Dec. 15 to Dec. 19. Students and staff have expressed ambivalent opinions about the new layout for final exams but ultimately agree that it will promote overall mental and emotional well-being.
A Looser Agenda
In general, the new finals system is no different from the usual 5-day school week. Classes will have their typical 50-minute periods (with shortened periods Monday) and follow the regular bell schedule.
“It won’t feel any different than a regular school day. You’re on that same schedule, and your body and mind react in the same sort of way.” Associate Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Ryan Doherty said. “I think that that routine is helpful. You know there won’t be a changing schedule and longer tests. All of that goes away.”
Whether a course will have a final exam is up to each teacher. That said, every final exam must fit within the 50-minute class period—but could have multiple parts spread across more than one day if more time is needed. Students can locate specific information regarding final exams in their class syllabus and are required to attend all class periods, regardless of whether or not their teachers will give them a final exam.
According to Doherty, DGN has adopted the new finals system to lessen students’ anxiety about final exams. He added that the system might improve the accuracy of students’ performances because of this.
“We want to make sure that students can show what they know in their classes. But when a large percentage of their grade depends on their performance on one day, for some students, that pressure is too much,” Doherty said. “There’s a lot of studies talking about the difference between pressure and stress and how they actually prevent teachers from knowing what a student has learned.”
Counselor Mark Wasik agreed with the mental and academic benefits of the new final exam system, explaining that teachers will also benefit from the freedom they now have with administering their final “exams.
“It will allow teachers the flexibility of time in terms of giving exams over time versus [in the] one sitting that the previous final exam schedule presented,” Wasik said. “From that standpoint, it will [also] allow teachers the ability not to have to produce a grade for an exam that’s right then and there, but instead that’s over multiple days.”
For some, the new final exam system isn’t ideal. Junior Ella Knickerbocker favors the previous finals schedule, in which students only had three of their periods each day and had to complete each exam in one sitting.
“I would prefer the last finals schedule because you can just get each test over with faster and get them done in one go. I don’t like the idea of the split between days, which could happen during this new schedule,” Knickerbocker said.
On the other hand, others maintain a more supportive view toward the updated finals system. For example, social studies teacher Carrie Roberts enjoys that teachers now have the option not to administer a final exam.
“Because I am not giving a cumulative final, I will have more time to cover the semester curriculum for my classes. That will be less stressful for me as well as my students,” Roberts said.
Senior Madeline Antonio maintains a similar view toward the new finals system, explaining how it will be less stressful and more familiar.
“During the new finals schedule, not all teachers will give finals. So that makes it more manageable. It’s also not as confusing as the previous schedule. I remember my freshman year, I was like, ‘What’s happening? We’re supposed to go here when? We have 10-minute passing periods?’ So it’s much less confusing, especially coming out of a very confusing year,” Antonio said.
Words of Guidance
However one may feel about the new final exam system, Wasik offered a few suggestions to help students and staff get through the last week of the semester and into winter break.
“Students should be conscientious of their teachers’ expectations. I know teachers typically do a great job of communicating those expectations in advance, so there should be no surprises,” Wasik said. “Whatever the teacher communicates with, I would take full advantage of the resources that teachers give because I see time and time again that is how students are set for success.”