Illustration by Nan Jiang

Effectiveness of final exams during distance learning

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PRO: Final exams are a necessity in distance learning

By Nan Jiang

Final exams are a source of stress for many students. Studying for days on end and going to school to take tests for six consecutive hours is never a relaxing experience. However, during distance learning, final exams will be a helpful tool for teachers to evaluate student progress.

Although it has been a stressful year, in the world of academics, students have it easier than a typical school year. An eight-hour school day has been shortened into four-hours. Teachers have also been assigning less work and sports and clubs have been reduced to social meets. This opens up an abundance of free time for students to relax their mind and study for their final exams. This year’s final exams will be great sources at evaluating a student because they are allotted more time dedicated for studying. 

Final exams are especially important this year because teachers do not truly know their student’s progress. In the physical classroom environment, it may be obvious that a student is struggling or does not understand something, but over Zoom, it is much more difficult to tell. This year, the final exam will not only be an indication of a student’s progress, but also a holistic evaluation on the effectiveness of distance learning overall. The statistics gathered from these evaluations can help educators refine distance learning if it is to be continued. 

It is true that it has been easier for students to cheat on tests this semester, but teachers have adapted to be more vigilant. The implementation of new measures, such as pointing a camera to a student’s screen or paper, has become increasingly popular over the school year. This is a good sign that by the time the final exams come by, more advanced and more efficient ways of detecting cheaters will be created by teachers in order to create a test that authentically evaluates a student’s knowledge of a subject. Final exams in 2020 are undoubtedly necessary for the academic well-being of the student and the system of distance learning.

Illustration by Chelsea Lam

CON: Final exams: A poor indicator of student success during distance learning

By Justin Fang

Final exams have special importance to students. Sometimes, the test determines a student’s grade for the term, heightening the value of its accuracy in measuring how well a student retained information. Final exams are inaccurate indicators of students’ performance because of pressure and, especially in distance learning, inadequate test security. 

Teachers have tried administering tests during distance learning securely by utilizing webcams and platforms that enforce time limits and allow them to monitor progression throughout the test. Given the recent cheating incidents, it is clear that distributing tests in distance learning is infeasible. If teachers cannot manage students when with minor-scale assessments, it is hopeless to provide students with finals without the risk of cheating, proving the point that final exams are inaccurate representations of a student’s knowledge of the course content. In fact, with such a heavy emphasis placed on finals, this fuels the toxic ideology of students risking everything through cheating for a good grade. 

When faced with an exam, there is tremendous pressure placed on students to succeed. Since final exams cover all of the term’s material, the amount of pressure is increased, and its effects are magnified. Throughout a term, after being tested on certain material, most students forget all of the information that they have absorbed to pass their assessment. Final exams test this forgotten content, and while students are given time to study for the tests, they are not given enough. It is preposterous to expect students to master every lesson that they have learned when there is such a large time gap between finals and when they covered it. 

Many can say that high school’s purpose is to prepare students for higher education and life. Those who intend to pursue higher education will learn that tests like midterms and finals will truly be the determining factors of their grades. Despite this, being forced to learn this fact early on does not benefit students. Instead of final exams, projects that are centered around learned concepts are more effective. Assignments that simply assess the content of each unit are also favorable alternatives, but they may demand less analysis and critical thinking skills compared to projects. Regardless, concept-oriented projects and content review should be considered as they would benefit students more than final exams. 

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