Students say winter final exams result in increased stress levels

“It hunts you down till you get done with the finals,” said Babiker. “Even after the finals stress is still there, thinking of how you did.”



Parneet Kaur, Pleasant Grove High School

At Pleasant Grove High School, the pressure-cooker of finals week is over. In the aftermath, students have a lot to say about how finals increased their stress levels, and about finals’ value and whether they can be too important in determining grades.

Finals are usually scheduled for mid-December every year and students believe that they are getting harder every year. Some students say the learning gap caused by the Covid 19 pandemic has increased the difficulty.

Sophomore Olivia Gibson believes some students struggle to learn new information. When asked if semester finals bring unnecessary stress, Gibson said, “Yes . . . because when you take a semester final it’s not just weeks (of material that have to be reviewed), it’s like the entire semester leading up to that final. Most of the time you aren’t really prepared because of a lot of review stuff… teachers do provide materials that are not enough.” 

Gibson believes that semester finals should be more spaced out with breaks. She is taking three Advanced Placement and Honors classes and extracurriculars for which she had to take a final. “Taking a test (requires) two hours straight with no breaks because you are on a time crunch,” said Gibson. “Most of the tests take more than two hours. I feel like it’s just stressful (and) also it is not like a good reflection of how hard you worked that year and what you learned. It’s more like how much did you remember from this entire semester.

“The math final was really hard and we had too little time to take it, causing an increase in my stress levels, and the final was not even similar to the review we did.”

Amina Babiker, a soccer player and a sophomore at PGHS, said finals benefit students by wrapping up everything learned during a semester. She added that while stress is to be expected during finals week, handling the pressure can be challenging.

“It hunts you down till you get done with the finals,” said Babiker. “Even after the finals stress is still there, thinking of how you did.”

Students expressed varying views on how much weight finals should be given in determining semester grades.

Isabella Hoang, a sophomore, said finals should exist if they do not have much effect on overall grades. “I like that semester finals exist but they should not be worth so much of your grade percent,” she said.

April Pierce, a swimmer and a sophomore, said most finals do not have a significant effect on semester grades.

“Everyone stresses over finals worried about how they will do,” she said. “But I have found that for most classes the final doesn’t even affect no more than 10% of your grade.”

Still, Pierce said finals should not be graded at all. Instead, she said, they should be used by teachers to reflect on how well students have absorbed information taught during the semester.

“Semester finals shouldn’t exist for the purpose of giving students a grade,” said Pierce. “The finals should be an evaluation of how well students were able to take in the information given to them.”

She believes finals are over-rated because stress may negatively affect students’ performance. 

As a result, said Pierce, finals do not “reflect how well they learned the information but how they handle stress and how it affects them.” In her own case, she said, “My stress increased because of the time limit put on the final and because I ran out of brain power making it hard to focus and think.”

Sophomore Faith Seto, citing the school and family pressures associated with finals, questioned whether they should exist at all.

“I can see where teachers come from when they say it allows them to know where their students are at in their education and if they’re actually paying attention, and that it helps with college,” she said. “But tests and quizzes allow the same thing.”

Sophomore Jocelyn Clark said the stress didn’t bother her much, and that finals serve a useful purpose for students.

“Personally, I don’t take a whole bunch of stress because if I am paying attention at school then I will know the material for the final,” she said. “I am okay with semester finals because they teach us to pay attention but they can be stressful for a lot of people.”