Opinion: Stressing the test

There are less stressful ways to evaluate students than multiple-choice finals


Madison Wise

Finals have been a tradition at many schools for generations, but these end-of-semester exams only serve to stress out students. What’s worse is that they aren’t the most effective tests.

Alayna Trimingham, Opinions Editor

A student wakes up and hits their alarm. They don’t believe it is actually morning because it feels like they just fell asleep, and they did. The student has been up all night memorizing the material for the past week, hoping this time it will guarantee success on the finals. They head to school, exhausted, and although they have been preparing for days, they can’t help but feel unprepared with a stomach full of only caffeine and nerves.

 The state of Illinois doesn’t require finals, so there is no specific way the tests must be done. The policies regarding finals vary from school to school. Many students are told to prepare by memorizing class material. Finals are, in most classes, worth 20% of a student’s final grade for a class—even multiple-choice assessments that do not require critical thinking. This not a proper measurement of the student’s knowledge. 

MCHS currently offers solutions to help with stress from finals that many may not know about. Study Night and Cocoa Cram are great opportunities to study in a relaxing environment with staff available for help. If stress reaches a certain degree, there are many resources available to help cope with the pressure of finals, such as counselors, the Chill Zone, and therapy dogs. Many teachers are also available during AIM and free periods to help students better understand the material on the test. 

While MCHS offers many ways to support and help students during finals week, there are still some ways they could do to make it less stressful on students. Gary Myers, one of West’s guidance counselors, says, “We used to have 3 days of finals and I thought that was best … The finals were longer so the students didn’t feel as rushed. They weren’t taking as many finals in a day, so they had an extra night of study.” Bringing this policy back could improve a student’s effort and performance. Junior Ella Wirth agrees. “You have more time and are more likely to be successful,” she says. 

Despite this, Wirth also says that finals can serve an important role at the end of a semester, and that it is the student’s job to prepare the right way. “I think it’s worth it to have a final in general to go over everything that you’ve learned that semester,” Wirth says. “I don’t think, however, it’s worth losing as much sleep over it as a lot of students lose.” Spreading out finals would help students make good decisions about how and when to study.

Another way finals could be made less stressful for students is by changing the common format of the test. Not all classes use multiple-choice exams, but many do, and this is not a useful way of assessing students. This way of test-taking often requires memorization, and when students have to try and memorize answers for many different classes it can often feel overwhelming. Junior Zachary Buffo says, “I don’t think it should be ‘just memorize these problems.’” 

A project, if used in a class where that is possible, will be more helpful for MCHS’s students. In fact, many classes already do this. Project-based learning benefits students more in future careers and is a better assessment of their skills. These exams also require more than just memorization, they require application.

Some say that finals are fine how they are done now, but this is not true. With the constant increasing stress levels, one could even argue that it is not safe to put so much pressure on students in school. Student health is more important than grades, and MCHS’s current system for finals.