The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

cumulative finals vs. other types of finals

CT Ryan Photography
BSM teachers and staff try their best to help students with the stress of finals week.

As finals grow nearer, I start to get more and more anxious about my grades and the tests to come. Finals week is a time of year when students, like myself, stress about memorization and content understanding. When an exam is cumulative, the stress only triples.

In math, for example, there are tons of formulas to recall during each problem. Not only do we have to remember how to solve all of the different types of problems, but we must also remember the formulas in order to solve the problem in the first place. An easy solution to this would be to at least give students a formula sheet. This would allow cumulative finals to run more smoothly. However, non-cumulative finals are still the better option.

I find that in non-cumulative finals, I tend to flourish and demonstrate my understanding of the topic more proficiently. For example, in John Groess’s class, the final is only for the last few units. For each of his classes, there is a midterm and a final. This allows for less pressure in memorization and overall less stress during finals week in general.

Non-cumulative finals focus more on demonstrating what students have learned rather than focusing on memorization of academic topics. This creates an environment that makes it easier for students to succeed. Non-cumulative finals are also more impactful because they show how students have grown from the beginning of the semester.

The fact is that the ability to remember everything learned in five months is practically impossible. It is difficult to remember all of a unit’s content during the unit, let alone during a test of everything that was learned during the semester. This is just not realistic.

Remembering a large amount of materials for a cumulative final is even worse for complex classes like physics. I am most nervous about physics simply because it is cumulative. I may still be sustaining a decent grade this semester in physics, but my fear is that I will forget most of the content and therefore fail the final. The expectation to remember all of the content in a cumulative physics final is simply unattainable. There are too many formulas and equations to remember, so I think it would be better to have a non-cumulative final.

In contrast, there is one positive to cumulative finals. They allow students to remember more content for the following semester. When forced to study the entire semester’s materials, students will be able to use that information to help them remember useful information to support semester two studies.

Overall, cumulative finals are setting students up to fail. The stress alone causes enough panic to discourage students from achieving their best work. Along with that, the memorization piece creates an impractical final for an already stressful week.

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