The Inbox

Why Finals Should Be Before Break

I spend a lot of time working on schoolwork. Stressing far too much about every test, quiz, project, and essay is a mainstay in my life. The stress leading up to finals is the worst of these exam stresses. Over winter break, I spent time stressing over finals, compulsively checking my grade to see what I needed to get on each final and reviewing material every so often. This doesn’t mean that break wasn’t enjoyable, but it did make it less so. Moving finals to before break would alleviate this stress over break and more broadly alleviate stress for students and teachers.

One of the difficulties with having a break, three weeks of class where new material can be introduced, then finals, is that students are forced to either sacrifice significant portions of break to reviewing material, or students are left playing catch up to relearn what they forgot. Eighteen days is a lot. I’d challenge anyone to remember material they learned just before taking a break for that long especially, if, like students, they aren’t necessarily interested in everything they’re learning. There are many different concepts and ideas being thrown at you in six different subjects at school, and it is impossible to retain everything. 

Worse is scrambling to remember old concepts while new material is being introduced, while your last tests before your finals are being thrown at you, and while you have to study for finals. I am currently in the throes of this. It’s painful. I have new concepts being introduced to me, especially in math, science, and Spanish, which rely on an understanding of old material which I, in many cases, have forgotten about. I understand that this would be the same regardless of whether or not finals had happened before break, however, it’s made worse because the pace of things borders on breakneck at times. Additionally, you have to relearn all these concepts in two weeks after you come back rather than having five months before the end of year finals to relearn all these concepts. 

Most of the arguments in favor of keeping finals in the second semester don’t hold up to scrutiny. The argument that it would make the semesters lopsided in terms of time is a valid concern, however, you could move the start date for school if you really wanted to make them equal. More importantly, I don’t think it matters. First semester is so much harder than the second semester because in the second semester there are breaks every six or seven weeks, whereas in the first semester you have to get through 11 weeks, and it’s getting colder which is significantly more depressing than when it’s getting warmer. All these factors mean that the length of each semester really doesn’t matter. 

Another argument is that students are refreshed and ready to go on their finals after a relaxing break. This is wrong because that’s what a shorter period is ideal for, like, I don’t know, Thanksgiving Break. However, two weeks is a long time which allows students to forget a lot of material. You can argue that students should be studying over break or remember things, but that is unrealistic.. 

We take finals to prepare us for college, all of which have their finals before they have their winter break, regardless of if they’re on the semester system or the quarter system. This is just one of many reasons why Parker is making the wrong decision having finals after break. Moving it would help students prosper and have a better break. Almost all the students I talked to and many teachers are in favor of the switch. Now it’s time for a new administration to change what has been the norm for too long.