Final exams are miserable. They’re hard, long and usually worth a significant percentage of your grade. Worst of all, they run deep into the holiday season, cutting into the time students should be on break. But as miserable as exams at the end of the term naturally are, they are often made worse in practice by professors who decide to administer them before the period allotted for final exams. These professors are ignoring a policy designed to ease the strain on students and are thus making the hectic end of the semester even worse.
According to the University policy on final exams, as listed by the Office of the Registrar and in the Faculty Handbook, professors are supposed to administer their final exams during the period specified by the University’s Calendar Committee. This policy does not allow professors to administer final exams on the last day of class unless students and the professor reach a mutual agreement to change the exam date. This policy was designed to give students an adequate amount of time to study for each exam over the next two weeks.
Yet some professors skirt the policy, holding exams on the last day of classes with the hope of finishing up the semester a little earlier. One way to do this is by arguing that the last exam of the semester is not cumulative and therefore is not a final exam by definition. But this argument is disingenuous: If an exam is given during the last class of a semester, students need satisfactory time to study regardless of whether it is cumulative. With final papers, projects and homework assignments still on students’ plates, the last day of class is a horrible time to have any exam.
The University recognizes this dilemma and gives students the extra time to study with the desire that students do well on final exams. Professors should share this desire. While students and professors may be all for going home a few days early, a main objective of being a student, studying, should not be compromised for this reason.
The University’s policy is also flawed. Even though the policy gives ample time to study, it extends the exam period too far into December. For example, this year the last exams will be given on Thursday, Dec. 20, and students are expected to be back in class on Thursday, Jan. 3. With travel time, especially for out-of-state students, this means students have less than two weeks of break.
Everyone wants to do well on exams, and everyone wants to go home. There can be a compromise here if the exam period is moved earlier into December and if professors follow University policy and only administer exams within that exam period.