Should Finals be Cumulative of the Full Year?
June 5, 2018
With the hum of excitement in anticipation of summer also comes finals week as students begin to cram a semester-or-two’s worth of knowledge. Although potentially stressful, most end-of-year finals should be cumulative of the entire year’s worth of information to ensure long-term retention and maintaining a flow across the two semesters.
When students review material from the start of the year, it makes the two semesters more contiguous. When a final focuses solely on second semester content, many students will ignore first semester content. This is especially damaging in courses with standardized testing, such AP or SAT subject tests.
According to Psychology Today, studying something again after a delay, called spaced learning, can produce a huge amount of learning and drastically improved retention; spaced learning is crucial to long-term learning.
“Although I understand the stress of studying subjects from a past semester, I understand the importance of taking a year’s worth of content…to encompass everything students have learned,” sophomore Tresa Schrader said. “It’s good to get into the habit of retaining information that you absorb rather than forgetting it as soon as you enter a new semester.”
A huge upset with cumulative finals, however, is students feeling overwhelmed with a large amount of content to study. With content increasing in difficulty, it is imperative that students learn to handle the stress of studying early-on, even if Netflix is calling. A cumulative final gives students an opportunity to demonstrate how much they have learned throughout the year and a chance to practice time-management skills.
The learning outcome of having cumulative finals, including increased content retention and practice with preparation strategies, is much more important than ignoring a semester’s worth of information.
No need to cram!
As the school year come to an end, the dreaded week of finals looms over the entire student population. During finals, each teacher has to decide whether the final should cover the entire year’s content or only covers material learned second semester. The most effective way to give a final is to cover material that was taught second semester only.
By making the final non-cumulative, it places less stress on students than a cumulative final. Since stress is already a large issue in adolescents today, placing more pressure on students by making finals cumulative may have a negative impact on their performance.
“I don’t want to give a cumulative final because I don’t want to stress my students out too much,” science teacher Michael Tang said. “I feel like it is too much to ask them to go back all the way to the beginning of the school year.”
The National Sleep Foundation finds that during finals week about 85 percent of students get below the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. In addition to this, research done by WebMD found that getting below the recommended amount of sleep makes students more likely to forget information they learned during the year while they are taking the test.
“When a teacher makes a final cumulative, they increase the amount of time that I would have to study for that test at least three hours per class,” sophomore Jaineel Makwana said.
Since cumulative finals increase the amount of time that students have to study, it takes away from the time that the students can sleep, which leads to a poor performance on the test. The stress that a cumulative final places on students only decreases their performance on the test. Although a cumulative final covers more of the material covered during the year, it is not worth it when taking into account the students’ well being.