Structure for exams unwise


Maroon Staff

Holly Combs


I really don’t have time to be writing this column today. I have a research paper due Wednesday and one due Friday, an interview in French on Tuesday, a pastiche to Kate Chopin due Wednesday, an exam on religious Indian art on Friday, and as much of my thesis as I can possibly finish due as soon as possible. But that is precisely the reason that I have decided to write this column.

There is something wrong with the system that most American colleges seem to follow at the end of the semester. The challenge becomes to complete as much work as you possibly can in a week, sometimes two weeks, rather than actually working to retain any of the information that you have learned for longer than the end of the semester.

In most classes, final exams and papers make up the majority of the final grade. This means that our grades are not based on how smart we are, how hard we are willing to work, or even how much we have learned in a given class, so much as they are based on how well we are able to cope with the stress of the final crunch, how skilled we are at cramming, and how little sleep we are able to function with.

For some students, this is a serious problem. Several intelligent, dedicated students will stay up all night studying for their exams, only to accidentally fall asleep just before class and sleep through them. It happens to a few unlucky students every semester.

During the end of my first semester, I was so dedicated to studying for exams and writing term papers that I did not go to bed until finals were over, though I did work in a few naps. By the time that my finals were over, I was exhausted. I had been working off of so little sleep and staring at books and computer screens for so long that the floor began to look like it was moving. Fortunately, it paid off, and I was able to manage straight A’s.

Now that I’m a senior, I am better prepared for the impending torment of having multiple major assignments due in all of my classes during a very small time frame. I try to start papers as soon as possible and take meticulous notes during the semester to make studying easier.

And yet, the end of the semester is still hellish. It seems that no amount of planning can fully alleviate the stress of the last two weeks of school.

I honestly have no idea how the current education system came into play, but I do know that it needs to change. What do we gain from testing people on their short-term capacity to remember information or their ability to spew out 10,000 words of research in a week? Why does the work we do over the course of the semester count for less than the work we do in the final class periods?

Holly Combs can be reached at [email protected]