The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Pro/Con: Should JDS have finals?

May 25, 2021


When CESJDS administrators stated that there would be no high school final exams this year, many students felt relieved. Yet this is a short-sighted view. Finals allow students to retain the information they learned and prepare them for future college tests.

Exams are administered at the end of the school year to test students’ acquisition of knowledge. They compel students to review what they have learned and to revisit what they might not have understood before. They give students a second chance at learning.

Without the final exam, one important incentive for students to study and review previous instruction is eliminated. Because of this, many people will forget what they have learned soon after it was taught. This sets them up for failure in the future when they encounter a topic that requires them to build upon what they previously studied.

However, this natural cycle of learning and forgetting can be broken by the intensive studying that the final test encourages. As students attempt to retain information by preparing for the final, they try out different strategies. Eventually they may discover a few that work effectively.

Acquiring practical study strategies can often mean the difference between doing well in a class or not. Learning through studying for finals would help JDS students immensely in their academic pursuits.

Along with learning how to study intensively, finals teach students how to efficiently take long tests. JDS finals are all two hours long, which is useful practice for students on their way to college. Finals are the one opportunity for students to really experience exams similar to those they will likely encounter in their university classes.

JDS finals are also worth 10% of a student’s overall grade in a class. Administering a test that is so significant for students’ grades helps the students learn how to cope with the stress of large assignments. It gives them a chance to learn how to deal with their stress in a healthy manner. Eliminating the final would only leave them unprepared for the challenges they will have to face in the future.

People like to complain that finals are stressful, and they are right. But they fail to consider the alternative. It would be much more stressful to arrive in college without the kind of testing experience that finals provide, and then to do poorly on the first few tests. Compared to college, these exams have much lower stakes.

For the past two years, JDS has not held finals because of COVID-19. While it is unfortunate that the exams had to be canceled, it was understandable. However, these unusual circumstances should not lead JDS to eliminate finals altogether. Upon the return of normalcy, final exams should once again become standard practice because they provide valuable experience for high school students.

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For the past two years, final exams have been canceled due to the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic. Once we return to daily in-person school next year, I see no reason to reinstate them as they hold minimal benefits for CESJDS students.

In freshman year, I took four finals along with the other students in my grade. When studying for the tests, it became clear that the finals process does not really test knowledge from the year, but rather tests your memorization capabilities. Students study the material to know it for the two hours they will be taking the test rather than to remember it for the long-term future.

After I finished my final exams, I retained the knowledge for perhaps a few days. I certainly did not remember it by the following year. Final exams simply promote an environment in which students study to do well on the test, instead of studying for the sake of learning and retaining information.

Although the value of the test was reduced from 14% to 10% of one’s final grade within the last few years in order to reduce students’ stress, there is still an abundance of pressure for students surrounding the final exams.

Additionally, students are expected to answer questions and apply their knowledge from the start of the second semester, which leaves students constantly worrying about a far-away test rather than what they are currently learning.

This year, when it was initially unclear whether there would be final exams, I heard many students ask teachers if they were aware of the plans for exams. At the same time, I wondered if I would have to start stressing, rather than start studying.

The long-term stress that many experience because of final exams can lead to an increased risk of mental health and medical problems among kids. High school students already have to deal with a mountain of homework and extracurricular activities. Having finals only adds more unneeded stress to the mix of students’ workload.

Throughout the year, assessments are given to test a student’s knowledge of a certain topic. These graded tests clearly prove that students know the material, so more stress-inducing exams should not be necessary.

An argument can be made that finals are necessary in preparing students for college, and I cannot disagree with this. However, schools must decide what they want to prioritize: preparing their students for colleges’ final exams or ensuring that students stay healthy and mentally stable. Maybe both can happen in the future, but as of now I don’t see a way for the two to coexist.

These past two years without final exams have been extremely helpful in strengthening the student body morale and significantly reducing end-of-the-year stress. These cancellations have reduced the already competitive environment in a beneficial way.

The recent cancellations of exams should be followed by the total elimination of final exams at JDS. These tests should be replaced with projects within the class that will leave students with less stress and more time to enjoy their last days of the year.

About the Writer
Photo of Maya Preuss
Maya Preuss, In-depth Editor
Maya Preuss is looking forward to continuing her time on Lion’s Tale as an In-Depth Editor after previously serving as a News Editor and Assistant News Editor. Outside of Lion’s Tale, Maya is also a member of the CESJDS Varsity Soccer and Basketball team. She is excited to work alongside Lion’s Tale’s amazing staff members and cannot wait for another incredible year on Lion’s Tale.
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