Final projects or final exams?


Many schools and colleges have begun to lean toward final projects instead of final exams. At Mercy, however, most classes still give students final exams, which is not always the best way for a student to show what they have learned in the class. (Photo Credit: Libby Miodonski)

Even though it seems like the school year began just a while ago, the knowledge that final exams are right around the corner are in the back of every student’s mind. These finals cause enormous amounts of stress for students, considering it can make or break their grade in a class.

Along with horrible amounts of stress, final exams have many downsides for students. So, why not switch to doing final projects instead?

“I think our finals should be projects instead of tests,” said senior Caitlin Ryan. “It would take the pressure off of students and the fact that each of our finals count for 20% or more of our grade, and giving us a longer amount of time to prove ourselves through a well-done project is a better way to reflect our knowledge and work ethic compared to one long, vigorous test that can make or break our semester’s worth of work.”

For one, final exams don’t actually cause students to remember and retain information. Students stay up all night, chugging caffeine to stay awake memorizing information they were given throughout the semester, only to forget the majority of it right after the exam. Final projects, on the other hand, are more likely not to be done in one night. Projects take time, which means students are working with the information longer and therefore are more likely to retain it. Since finals are supposed to measure how much a student learned throughout a semester, it makes more sense for students to show their knowledge by applying it in projects, rather than just regurgitating it during an exam.

Another argument against final exams is that many students aren’t very good at taking tests. They may have studied and known the information, but struggle when it comes time to take the test.

“[Final exams] don’t always show people’s knowledge,” said junior Mary Cascarelli. “Some people get really nervous and just don’t do as well, even when they studied really hard or if they know the information.”

People may freeze up and get nervous when it comes time to take such a big test, and this can result in a bad grade that drops their overall grade point average. On the other hand, final projects don’t give students the pressuring anxiety that tests do. Projects allow students to work at their own pace, and they don’t get the same anxiety that comes with taking a test. Another issue with final exams is that they are timed. Students study for hours on end, but when they have a limited amount of time to test, it’s often not in the student’s favor.

“Sometimes hard work at the end of the semester isn’t enough, [as] people will study for weeks for their finals and still not do well enough” said junior Jasmine Kaltenbach. “But with final projects, they have time to make themselves look better and it’s another way to get better grades, and it’s way less stressful.”

It’s very unfair to test students on a whole semester’s worth of information in a hour and a half time frame. For students to show their best work and all they have learned, it makes more sense to have projects where they have more time and can better apply the information they learned.

These reasons are why many colleges and schools around the country have switched to final projects. A few classes at Mercy have implemented final projects, such as Economics, Psychology, various religious courses, and students have final papers in English classes and final orals in many language classes. But that still usually leaves students with five or six exams to study for at the end of each semester. Trying to study for that many exams in the course of a couple weeks can be too much for students. Final projects in more classes would take away some stress, and allow students to show their knowledge of the class’ information better, which will help students receive better grades in those classes.