Pro/con: The easy way out isn’t the best option Tests are the only reasonable way to show mastery of a subject

Midterms and final exams should remain as tests. Photo Credit: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu

To read Tishie’s opposing viewpoint, click here.

As the idea of summer rolls into students’ minds, final exams are the last obstacle they have to face before crossing over to break. Final exams are an assignment given at the end of each semester to assess students’ understanding of the information. While tests have been used for years, a more modern way of assigning finals is through projects. 

Over the past few years, more schools have implemented PBL, or project-based learning as a way to replace assignments and final exams. While PBL has been proven to help students retain information, tests are still the most reliable way to assess students’ knowledge.

While projects may work better for hands-on classes, how would projects work for classes that aren’t creatively based? In some classes, students don’t need to be creative to express the basic content presented, they can show their understanding by answering questions on a test. In a class like math, a project may not show mastery of what the individual student knows and what they understand. While they could complete a project, students wouldn’t truly need to know all the information taught throughout the course. In this example, it makes more sense for a student to express their knowledge through a written test in comparison to curating a project using mathematical expressions.

Furthermore, projects almost always have one basic topic that students need to showcase, but that concept doesn’t encompass all of the standards that students should master during the semester. Finals are designed to cover all of the content standards learned during the semester, not just one influential topic. Tests have several questions for each standard, thus allowing teachers to assess more of what students learned and what information was retained. While projects can show what students learn about a topic, tests go over everything that they should take away from the class. 

Most projects are assigned to be done in groups, and working with others can always result in issues. Projects take time and dedication from students, but not all students will participate or include information about what was learned. When working on a group project, if one student doesn’t participate, they will learn nothing and get an easy way out of their final exam. On the other hand, the rest of the group will have to take on one student’s work and create unnecessary stress for themselves. Assigning group projects doesn’t effectively assess a student’s individual understanding of the content learned. 

Although projects are a more modern approach, tests have been utilized for years and they are given all semester to assess the skills students have learned. It takes time for students to learn how to take tests efficiently, and they spend the semester developing important test-taking strategies. Whether they form a study schedule or group, students know how to take tests successfully. Students are provided with study guides or practice tests so they can prepare. Not only have tests been used for years and students have been taught to prepare for them, but they will also have to take tests like the ACT and SAT to get into college. Taking tests during final exams will allow students to see what important tests could impact their future. If students aren’t exposed to high-value tests in high school, it is a disservice to them. 

Tests have been proven to work for a variety of classes. Final exams can be created based on what teachers believe students should know and take away from their class. Tests were created to show mastery of a subject, and that is what they should be used for.