Finals week is upon us and the student body is in rare form. Students are dusting off $80 textbooks they haven’t used all year and are attempting to teach themselves an entire semester’s worth of material in a few short days. Instead of being filled with cheap liquor and bad decisions, Friday and Saturday nights are spent in deafening silence huddled in a library cubicle. It’s the most horrible week a college student faces.
The concept of final exams has always bothered me. And by final exams I mean a test encompassing material from the entire semester.
Reading the words “cumulative final” on a syllabus is like a kiss of death. As if the entire semester wasn’t hard enough, wouldn’t it be fun if we made students remember facts they learned four months ago? I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night. And isn’t it convenient that the time when you need brain food the most is the week when your refrigerator is left bare with a few cans of beer and a half empty bottle of ketchup? Last semester before an economics final, I found myself eating a burnt grilled cheese sandwich composed of bread ends and a slice of pre-packaged cheese.
Proper nourishment is important when taking tests.
One of the busiest places on campus is the TECH Center. Though stocked with seemingly
infinite rows of computers, there never seems to be enough for everyone. Like crazed shoppers on Black Friday, students become vicious at the sight of an empty computer seat. Getting a seat is relatively easy compared to actually getting work done. The TECH Center during finals week is a frat party without the keg. Since virtually all Temple students make an appearance there sometime throughout the week, you’re bound to run into old roommates and classmates.
All of this almost always results in a long conversation that keeps you doing everything but studying. Some teachers offer students the option of what type of test they’d like to take – essay or multiple choice. When picking your poison it’s important to weigh the alternatives.
Multiple choice tests are great if you like memorizing a slew of meaningless facts. We’ve all run into those random questions that no one in his or her right mind would’ve studied for: What was the color of Hamlet’s brother’s dog? A) Black with shades of gray B) Gray with shades of black C) Hamlet’s brother didn’t have a dog D) All of the above.
Remember to never doubt yourself: it’s always “All of the above,” even in the contradictory sense.
Using Scantron sheets is one of the riskiest methods of test taking. With only two hours of sleep under your belt, there’s a high probability you’ll skip a line on your answer sheet. Once you reach the last question, you realize you had been filling in every answer in the wrong space. The essay exam mostly tests your ability to withstand a long period of pain in your finger joints, giving a clear edge to all videogame geeks.
While it’s hard to argue the score of a multiple choice test without being cross-eyed or carrying a No.3 pencil, an essay exam allows the student just enough room to wiggle out of actual comprehension. It’s easy to pretend you know what you’re talking about and even slip by with a few misstatements of fact. And when in doubt, write in Spanish, especially if it’s a Spanish class.
What I still don’t understand is why we’re given miniature blue books to write all of our responses in. Considering I can plow through three blue books within the course of 90 minutes, it would be far simpler just to make the blue books larger than a three-by-five inch index card. And when it finally comes to taking the test, it’s all about location. Professors have devised elaborate seating charts in order to prevent cheaters from glancing at their neighbors’ tests. But when you’re in a huge lecture hall, instructing students to become islands by seating them between empty chairs is like watching 2-year-olds play musical chairs: by the time everyone has found the right seat the class is halfway over.
Finals are a necessary evil in any academic
setting, but there’s no better feeling than laying down your pencil at the end of your last final exam of the semester. All of the meaningless information you memorized instantaneously disappears and is replaced with thoughts of racing to your empty fridge to grab that beer. With cheap liquor
and bad decisions, the planets fall back into alignment.
Rachel Madel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org