The Lake Park Perspective

The Student News Site of Lake Park High School

The Lake Park Perspective

The Lake Park Perspective

Insights and Suggestions for Final Exam Structures

With Winter Break quickly approaching, the main topic on students’ minds is the upcoming finals week. The period of relaxation that awaits includes the prerequisite of enduring a straight three days of the utmost stress. Between ten and twenty percent of a student’s grade is budgeted into a 90-minute class period with lengthy back-to-back exams. Such immense stress has been the foreground of Lake Park for far too long.
The first final exams were quite different than the ones students have today. Beginning in the 1640s, Harvard students had to take entrance and graduation oral exams with the sole purpose of memorization. However, as class sizes grew and students increasingly despised the oral exams, Harvard and Yale started administering written exams in the 1830s with total comprehension of the material added to the original goal of memorization.
The essential idea behind final exams is to ensure that students retain the information they learned and are incentivized to do well with the risky 20% grade weight. But should finals still be administered to students who are already performing well in class? It is safe to assume that a student who already has an “A” has worked hard and in doing so has, for the most part, a good cumulative understanding of the material. Why would they need to take yet another exam to demonstrate their knowledge?
According to a study conducted by Dr. Chris Coxon, a medicinal chemist who studies medicine for neurological disorders, 96% of students felt worried about final exams and the impact they would have on their grades. If a student already has a 90% in their class they would have to score a 90% or higher to retain this grade. The immense pressure can build if multiple classes follow the same model.
If a final was optional for students who already have an A in the class, this would be a great incentive for students to work hard to earn the A without a final exam.
The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on students’ mental health, has found a correlation between school-related stress and academic performance declining with higher rates of dropping out, and falling motivation to perform well in school.
Other high schools in Dupage County have utilized such a model. Fenton High School in Bensenville grants teachers the option to assign a final. Fenton also does not have capstones for their students in English classes. York High School in Elmhurst, ranked #36 in Illinois by US News and World Report, does not give any finals to students regardless of their current grades. While recently York school board members have expressed concern that students will not be prepared for college, they still recommend an option less harsh than Lake Park’s: final exams in only math and science classes with only the ability to help a grade, and not hurt it.
If finals are viewed as a hassle and unnecessary stress for a student, why does Lake Park still have mandatory final exams?
Many colleges as well have taken a different approach to administering finals. The University of California at Berkley has a mandatory week before the final of dedicated time for the students to prepare and where the professor is advised not to teach any new material. The “Dead Week” allows students to adequately prepare for their big exams and not have to worry about learning a random short unit before the final. This structure is very appreciated by the stressed-out UC Berkley students.
In comparison, each class at Lake Park has a very different approach to how they go about final exam preparation. Many classes give just 2 or three days of class time to prepare for the final exam. “In a lot of my classes I wish we had more time to review for the final instead of having to quickly learn a new unit, test on it, and then take a massive exam two days later. it is hard to manage,” Priyanka Achanta (LP ‘24) said.
Perhaps students would perform better if they had longer class review periods, or maybe it is a question of allotting time a week or more in advance to begin cumulatively studying.
The stress of finals exams can often be a lot to bear. Overall, Lake Park should consider adopting other successful final exam structures, such as not making them mandatory if the student has a good grade in the class, standardize exams across the same course, and provide more review days to decrease stress and improve student performance.


Senior Editors Julia Kamysz (LP ‘24), Maya Krolikowski (LP ‘24), and Philip Sullivan (LP ‘24) are primarily responsible for this piece along with Staff Writer Jack Fitzpatrick (LP ‘24). Additional contributions by the entire Perspective Staff.

The Perspective is committed to publishing a diversity of opinion on its editorial page. Students, staff and administration are welcome to share ideas and opinions about issues relevant to the Lake Park community as well as the stories we cover through letters to the editor. The Perspective reserves the right to edit letters for clarity or brevity. 

Letters can be emailed to our staff advisor, Mr. Mike Bundalo, at [email protected].

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