Is This Really Finals?

A Comparison of Last Year’s Finals to This Year’s


Photo credit: Maddy Leja

“Alright, let’s take a math final!” Comic by cartoonist Maddy Leja.

It’s a Wednesday night, the week before finals. This same week last year, I spent hours combating my nerves by studying the ins and outs of Algebra II and memorizing a carefully selected poem I was to shakily present in front of my freshman English class for what was my first ever finals. 

This Wednesday evening, I’m face to face with a set of untouched chemistry problems due tomorrow. I’ve just turned in a French II quiz on VHL, and there’s no math final for me to work myself up over. In its place, there is a simple unit test which we would have had anyway, finals or no finals.   

“This project isn’t going to count for what a normal final would, think of it more like a wrap up to our unit.” This is a phrase that’s been echoed to me throughout this week by my teachers, many of them just as tired of staring at a computer screen as we are. 

All of my teachers, with the exception of math, have opted to assign us projects. Many of them are struggling with testing students due to the growing awareness of the fact that many of my classmates are referencing Google mid-test, as noted by my chemistry teacher when students filled in the correct formula of an ionic compound in a way not taught to us by her. 

My Advanced Chemistry final takes the form of an infographic. We have each been assigned a different topic to learn about, primarily focusing on its chemistry and molecular formulas. Although a final project, we have been learning new material throughout this week entirely unrelated to the project, a system I don’t recall last year when we had spent the week before reviewing nearly every topic covered from September to January in full-blown preparation for a heavily weighted test. Our Freshman Advanced Biology class had two hours to fill out a lengthy multiple choice test in a first floor science classroom filled with overly prepared, anxious freshmen.

This year, there seems to be a nonchalant attitude towards the vast majority of my finals. With a steady flow of regular homework and even a quiz the week leading up to finals, it feels as if it’s any other week of remote school. I even have the luxury of my last class on Friday being cancelled. My English teacher gave our class non-elaborate details on how to prepare for our final debate about “A Small Place” by Jamaica Kincaid Thursday morning, and told us she had no further needed instruction, resulting in cancelled class. We all enjoyed an early end to our Friday schedules. 

Last year, the weekend before finals I stuck to a rigid schedule of studying with friends, alone, and at assorted coffee shops and rooms in my house. This year, those coffee shops are closed, it’s no longer safe to study alongside whomever I want, and I don’t have tests to schedule in studying time for.

 Although I will spend the weekend designing and researching an infographic on mRNA vaccines, coding a choose your own adventure project, and filming a FlipGrid, many of my other projects I’ve been lucky enough to already finish, and my math test falls next Thursday. As a normal unit test, I most likely won’t begin preparation until the week of. A concept entirely unknown to me, as last year’s math final took my time and energy the entire week and weekend prior. 

I’ll still have rooms in my house to work in and will even be presenting my finals from my own room to a lit-up computer screen where my classmates are, also from rooms in their own houses.

Finals. One of many things looking different this year. Maybe this is one thing that has changed for the better.