Teachers mull exam format changes

John Heiderscheidt

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Several professors do not see the value of giving a comprehensive final exam. James Anderson, professor of biological sciences, is one of them.

“By the end of the semester yes, we would love for students to remember what we taught in week one,” Anderson said. “But it is also unreasonable. I prefer taking one test at a time.”

Anderson, who teaches advanced genetics, said the tests create high tension for students.

“Exams cause high anxiety as it is,” he said. “Sometimes repetition helps an individual learn material. I’m sure knowing there is a comprehensive final exam changes some students’ study habits too. But when a student sometimes has a final exam they sometimes feel like beaten dogs. It’s just not reasonable to expect that of students,” Anderson said.

Theology lecturer Scott Celsor defended the design of a comprehensive final exam for students.

“I think it’s important that students be able to synthesize what they have learned throughout the course,” Celsor said. “(Comprehensive exams) key on issues that are most important points in the class.”

Celsor did see a personal drawback to comprehensive exams.

“They do increase my work load a little bit,” Celsor said. “When creating a final exam you have to revert back to information that your mind was once very focused on and try and pick out the stuff that was most important in the section. So it does create a little more work for the teacher.”

Political science professor Janet Boles is another teacher who chooses to have a comprehensive final exam in her classes.

“I do have a mandatory final exam for students in my Political Science 118 (Urban Politics) course,” Boles said. “I think it gives students one final chance to come to grips with the material they have learned over the course of the year.”

Boles said she thinks the weight of the exam on a student’s term grade is important.

“For my class the exam counts for 35 percent of their term grade,” she said. “I think it gives students a chance to redeem themselves if their lesser counting assignments weren’t as good as they should have been.”

Professor Jim Buchanan has taken the middle ground regarding how to handle a comprehensive final exam.

“I give students a couple of options,” Buchanan said. “The mandatory exam is just another one in a series of exams. However I do offer the opportunity to take a comprehensive final exam for students who want to. That grade can replace either another test grade or quiz grades.”

Buchanan explained why he chose to offer an optional comprehensive final exam.

“I’m not really sold on the idea of a comprehensive final,” he said. “It may change a student’s study habits a little bit, and it does help cover the materials a little better, but I’m still not really sold on it.”

Final exams will take place during the week of Dec. 7.

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