Should Finals Be Mandatory?

I believe that finals should be optional. Image you are a straight-A student who hasn’t gotten lower than a 90 on any major grade yet this semester. You do your assignments right when they are given, and understand all of the concepts that you are taught. You just completed an extra credit assignment that will bring your 98.9% to a 100%. You hear about the packet final that is going to be sitting on your desk during finals week and you instantly get nervous. You fear that your hard earned “A” being lowered to a “B” or even worse, a “C”. You know there is a lot riding on this test, and you are willing to study, but you just find it unfair to risk all of your semester’s hard work on one test.

Now image you are a C-average student. You try hard in class, you listen, you do your best to understand new concepts, but it just doesn’t seem to click. To add to the academic challenges, you are terrible at test taking.  You get so nervous on test day that you start to shake, you stomach aches, and you cannot for the life of you seem to focus on the task in front of you. You too have worked hard this semester. You’ve done all of your homework, did well of all of your projects, however, you seem to “choke” on tests and quizzes. You know that you don’t deserve an “A” in the class, but you know that a “D” or an “F” is in your near future if you fail the final. This also seems unfair because it is not an accurate representation of all you have accomplished in your challenging class.

I recently sat down with a couple of Centennial students who have asked to stay anonymous. Student A said that she feels like the student in the second paragraph. She finds it super unfair and stressful, “I hate when I have a bad grade in a class and know that no matter what I do outside of the classroom I will more than likely end of with a worse or failing grade than I had before the final”. The second student I talked with, Student B, said that she feels more like the student in the first paragraph, “I hate taking finals. I have already proven to the teacher that I have a firm understanding on all of the units. Why do I have to do it again?” Both of these students agree that finals should be optional.  

A common concept that these individuals recommended was that students should not be required to take finals if they have a certain grade in the class prior to the final. One student I talked with suggested idea that students should only need to retake the portions of the semester that they did not successfully pass. This is because students have already demonstrated their ability and understanding of the content prior to the finals.  I agree with both of these choices because not all students are good at taking test and others have already shown that they have a good grasp on all of the materials. Therefore, overall finals testing may differ from classroom to classroom, but it should not be mandatory for all students.