By Levi Livengood
Heavily weighted finals can often be the bane of many students’. Perhaps you find yourself doing good work the whole year for a really important class. You always do your homework and participate in class. Then suddenly when finals come around, you mess up and find that your grade in this important class fell. Not only did it fall, but it dropped hard. Perhaps you had close to a 100%, then suddenly you find yourself down at a B. While a B by itself is hardly something to cry over, circumstance can make the loss more bitter. A valedictorian could easily lose his place through something like this, even mere weeks before graduation.
Yet, on the other hand, a weighty final can inspire herculean efforts on the behalf of students. A student who believes that he will not perform well on a test will either stay up studying for a long time, or give up trying. Wheat and chaff in other words. The point of a properly designed final is to test the student’s ability to retain the information that he has learned over the course of a year or so. One can argue whether this is a quality that we want to judge in the first place, but let’s assume that it is. If a course is taught correctly, then a final should show that the majority of students should demonstrate the same understanding or better of the same subject matter as they have over the past year. B students should get a B or better. A should get an A. From this point of view, then, a heavily weighted final makes sense because it embodies the nature of the course perfectly. The student has been studying the subject matter for precisely this moment.
Of course, we cannot blame those who are the victims of circumstance, such as the valedictorian who loses his place after one bad night of sleep. But with the way classes are currently structured, a weighty final makes the most sense. A student should understand what he has been taught and should be able to easily demonstrate that knowledge, otherwise he has failed the class.
This is not to say that classes ought to be structured this way with this end in mind, rather that the rationale behind heavily weighted finals makes sense within its context.