Wondering when you’re going to find time to study for all those finals you have on the last two days of classes? You’re not alone. Many students wind up with a final exam or two in the last week of class. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, because final exams are supposed to be held during their officially scheduled slot in finals week. But the reality is that plenty of professors find ways around this policy or simply ignore it, to the detriment of students. While requiring professors to hold exams during finals week is a great policy, it needs some actual enforcement if it’s going to help any students.
Finals week is designed to give students more time to prepare for exams. The system gives students a day off after the last day of classes to relax and study. Exams are then staggered over the course of the next week. This system provides students with time to study after the distractions of classes and assignments are over for the semester. Finals week also prevents students from having to take too many exams in too short a time period — at least in theory.
But for many students, professors who hold their final exams on the last two days of classes anyway nullify the benefits of the University’s policy. How are they able to do this? Semantics. For example, if a professor doesn’t call the last exam in a class a final exam and instead calls it, say, the third installment of three non-cumulative exams, the policy doesn’t apply. Same thing applies for final papers. Regardless of whether the exam is worth a larger percentage or your grade or not and is by most measures the most important exam in a class, it can be held early.
The University has a finals week for a reason, though. Without hours of class to attend each day, students simply have more time to prepare for the exams that will largely determine their grades. This also acts to level the playing field for students. The brief study period and extended period of testing time gives all students a more equal chance to study for classes and make up for the material they missed throughout the semester. And since many assignments are also due on the last day, most students end up trying to juggle finishing these assignments and preparing for last day finals without adequate time to do a good job of either.
Obviously, some students like having exams on the last day of classes because it gets them done with school that much earlier. While this is a nice benefit, it rewards a limited amount of students while punishing everyone who has a few finals on the last day of class and then one at the end of the following week. And having exams on the last day of class simply does not put students in a position to succeed on these exams.
Professors possess many of the same motivations as students during the end of the semester. They want to get exams over with, and in many cases, they want to go home to their families. But professors need to recognize that holding their finals on the last day of class is a serious disservice to their students – one that the University has recognized and prohibited. And the University itself must do a better job of ensuring that final exams are actually held during finals week. Until it does, good luck.