Though it feels as if this school year just began, the end of Concord Academy’s 2021-2022 academic year is rapidly approaching. This time of year is often an exciting one, with new opportunities abound for our seniors and heavily-anticipated events, such as formal, the warm spring air also brings one of the most anxiety-provoking times of year: final exams.
For the entirety of the year, students have occupied themselves with the time, stress, and effort needed to perform well in their classes, with the fears of failing constantly looming over many. These tests of one’s cumulative knowledge have been a staple in school life for more than a century now; beginning in the 19th century, Henry Fischel, a Near-East Language professor at Indiana University, wanted to see his students’ abilities tested as a way to indicate their overall knowledge. This testing method caught on, and I believe that this approach to measuring proficiency has significantly shifted the way many think of studying.
The way the final exams are administered sets the foundation for many in the community to participate in cramming, a method of studying referenced by Ph.D. Candidate of Stanford University Sukru Burc Eryilmaz, is not only non-effective in information retention but also correlated with an increase in irritability, exhaustion, and moodiness. all as a result of a lack of sleep caused by a lack of sleep participating in this type of last-minute learning.
In spite of the fact that cramming is widely regarded as a negative and often inadequate method of studying, the way the CA exam schedule is set up, with there being a three day period from May 31 to June 2 in which five out of the potential seven blocks meet for testing, means that, for many, healthy and well planned out preparation for some exams will have to take a back seat, with students instead cramming for these exams.
Despite this, it should be noted that many of CA’s courses have diverted this issue by either modifying or simply not having a final exam. To me, this method of testing better synthesizes the learning that has taken place throughout the semester and is typically a more manageable workload, allowing for the spacing out of work and nullifying all concerns expressed above.
The final exam season doesn’t have to be filled with as much stress as it currently is and though it’s nearly impossible not to have at least a dash of pressure, encouraging the moving away from summative assessments is a step in the right direction for the well-being of those in the CA community.