You wake up and realize that you have a week full of exams ahead of you, and the stress starts to kick in. All of your study guides are 10 pages long; the thought of mastering that material is daunting. Each teacher and course has the opportunity to offer a final exam of their choosing, with most opting to choose the most effective option for their course and students, yet questions still remain among the student body about if they really know the pressure students feel. Some Blake teachers offer what their take on final exams:
Stacy Helmbrecht-Wilson, who teaches AP European History and American West, is a firm believer in not giving a test as her final exam. “Final exams tend to be very high-stakes and put a lot of pressure on kids,” she says. This speaks to the pressure a lot of students feel during exam week. Especially for those who don’t test particularly well, the stress is even higher. This is essentially the reason why Helmbrecht-Wilson does not give a final exam because she believes “it rewards kids who test well,” but, “for kids who don’t test well, it means a huge chunk of their grade is determined in one sitting.” The final exam may not necessarily be representative of the value any student, whether good or bad at taking tests, so it can be a tricky situation for teachers and students alike to find what works best.
Math and science classes hold their exam during a common block, which has historically limited testing to the traditional sit down paper exam. When asked if the science department has considered any other options for a final, Jen Vance reveals that, “we [the science department] have talked about trying to figure out if there is a way to test lab skills.” Having a lab component to a final exam may give students who are not great test takers the ability to showcase their knowledge in a different way.
Even though teachers try to minimize the intensity and anxiety surrounding final exams, some aspects of the process cannot be completely controlled. Some unhealthy behaviors that are a result of the final exams include a lack of sleep, increased stress, and anxiety. Despite these obvious disadvantages to final exams, there are also many advantages. Vance comments, “that first experience your freshman year is hard,” but it also provides students with a sense of how finals go, abling them to improve their approach to these tests. It also helps students understand how they can best prepare and take longer tests that one will face in college; As Vance puts it, “you do have to sit for longer cumulative exams in college.” Although the week of Blake final exams may be a stressful, it allows everyone to find studying and test-taking methods that work for them, allowing for improvement in subsequent tests and projects.