Is the Stress of Exams Really Worth It?

(L-R) Juniors Hayley Cavinder and Grace Funston concentrate on their homework in the library, preparing for their classes. Photo: Sloane Wagreich

If you speak to any Pace student about what the most stressful time of the year is, the most common response will probably be exam week. At the end of each semester, Pace students are required to take exams for all five of their academic classes. AP students are required to take all five exams in the winter, but they may exempt spring exams if they have above a certain average in their class. Exams can raise students’ averages, but in reality, they do more harm than good. 

“You don’t need a final exam to test how well you know the concept,” said freshman Marley Venturi. “Regular tests stress you out enough. We should get rid of them.” Many students have difficulty studying and preparing for a test on four or more months’ worth of material. If a student has gotten good grades throughout the semester and does not do well on their exams, there is no reason why their average should drop. This reduction does not reflect their overall performance in the course and should not be the determining factor of their final grade.

Although it rotates, the order of exams does affect a student’s performance. Exams that fall at the beginning of the week tend to be the finals that students study for the most. As the week goes on, they begin to lose focus and their scores can drop.

Exams build up unnecessary pressure for students and enhance the academic stress that they experience on a daily basis. In addition to high school exams, middle schools also test students. This is justified by leaders of schools, arguing that it is a great preparation for high school; however, it maximizes the pressure of students at an early age. As bad as it is that schools are requiring exams for middle school, it is worse for high school students.

All final grades that students receive are put on their report card and submitted to colleges in the fall or spring semester of their senior year. It does not matter if students maintained a relatively high average in their classes throughout high school; if they did not perform well on their exams, their averages will drop. There is no way for colleges to know whether it was because of the final exam or it was a common trend throughout the semester.

Many students end up cramming months’ worth of material for their final exams. This prevents them from truly understanding the information. In addition, it is bad for their health. According to “Sleep” Volume 42, less than 20% of students get even seven hours of sleep during finals week. Ironically, this particular week is when students need the most amount of sleep due to the back-to-back assessments. Students stay up late at night and wake up early in the morning to cram as much information as they can before their exam. Although it may seem helpful at that moment, students retain less material and are not able to remember as much by the time of the test.

Many schools across the country have gotten rid of exams in an attempt to create a healthier environment. Schools as close as Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Buckhead and as far as Horace Mann in New York have put a stop to these semester tests. In addition, Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida has terminated exams.

According to The Washington Post, schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, have gotten rid of exams in an attempt to shift towards a more project-style type of learning. “We’re trying to make sure the students have the 21st-century skills they need for the modern workforce, which is not necessarily sitting for a long test,” said Loudoun’s director of high school education Nereida Gonzalez-Sales. 

This topic of exams still sparks debate at Pace. While many may think that students are opposed to exams, in reality, there are quite a few Pace students who enjoy exam week. They argue that it is relaxed and enjoy only having to come to school for a few hours. Despite their preference for exams, there is a vast number of students who are passionate about getting rid of them. 

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