Final exam process needs re-evaluation

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Even though re-evaluating how we approach final evaluations can have some real value at universities, we need to consider everything that would need to be altered before we throw out the old system.

In an opinion piece from University Affairs, the validity of final exams at universities comes into question. Author Michael Baumann argues due to their mental health cost, the concept of how a university evaluates its students must be revised.

As other education systems have shown, there are better models of evaluation that exist, where students prove to be happier and healthier. Canadian universities would be foolish not to look at other options when it comes to evaluating learning in post-secondary education. 

Baumann argues a possible alternative to the stressful final exam period is to have multiple exam dates for students to choose from. Despite him arguing this change as one small step in the right direction, fixing the exam period is not as simple as he suggests.

Cramming is one part of university culture that’s joked about more often than others. Ideally, this harmful practice wouldn’t happen if students planned their study schedules ahead of the exam date. The unfortunate reality of university life is other things often get in the way of the average student’s studying, some of which isn’t completely their own fault.

Even though Baumann suggests stress and anxiety as some of the consequences of final exams, he doesn’t pose a solution to the intensity of a final examination. This is because there’s no simple alternative to the final exam with our existing post-secondary system.

Getting rid of the final exam entirely might be the best option, but students and universities instead need to work on building resources focused on time management and maintaining mental and physical health during the exam period and beyond.

Right now, Queen’s has a few resources in place to ease the burden of the final exam period, such as the exam buffer period to allow for time to study. Albeit a good thing, it’s still not enough to discourage cramming.

Instead of alternate dates, universities could start by restricting how close exams can be together. With the potential for many in one day, it’s no wonder that students end up spreading themselves thinly while studying at this time.

Flexibility in the academic system isn’t a bad thing. There’s an obvious logistical positive to big organized exams, but it may not be the best for every student. We need to respect the differences between people.

To cut final exams out of the university experience, the structure of how we approach and evaluate university courses as a whole will need to be overhauled in favor of something that continually evaluates students.

 

— Journal Editorial Board

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