Column: Final exams risk student health

Finals are one week when professors test a student’s progress in each class throughout the entire semester. This practice is both harmful to the student and does not provide a fair analysis of the student’s capabilities and progress over the semester. (crdotx/Flickr)

As this semester draws to a close, one matter still haunts the minds of every student on campus: finals. The end of the semester is hard, and final examination is one of the main stressors on students during this time.

Finals are one week when professors test a student’s progress in each class throughout the entire semester. This practice is both harmful to the student and does not provide a fair analysis of the student’s capabilities and progress over the semester. 

Often times during finals, students practice unhealthy lifestyles. Lack of sleep, excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages and the illegal use of Adderall are common methods that students use in an attempt to do well on their finals. Sleep deprivation can affect a student’s efficiency, ability to learn, memory and other important functions of the brain.

The consumption of too much caffeine is harmful to the body as well. Drinking too many caffeinated beverages can lead to a higher risk of heart attacks among young adults, high blood pressure, increased anxiety and insomnia. Some students even resort to Adderall and other prescription medication to help them focus. Adderall is a medication prescribed to people with ADHD so that they can focus throughout the day. This effect makes it extremely popular during finals time.

According to research from the University of Kentucky, 30 percent of students at the university have used stimulants like the ADHD drugs Adderall and Ritalin. The numbers rise when isolating upperclassmen or members of fraternities and sororities. There are serious side effects to using Adderall when it has not been prescribed. These include headaches, addiction and depression. It is sickening that finals cause so much pressure that students are willing to risk their health in order to do well. 

Exams are supposed to test each student’s ability in each class he or she is taking. These tests are supposed to demonstrate the skills and expertise gained over the semester. An important topic for each professor to consider is whether their exam measures learning or memorization. Testing memorization encourages students to learn for the test instead of learning the material and skills that will benefit them in the future. 

Exams further do not adequately test the amount a student has learned over the semester due to the prevalence of test anxiety. This is a psychological condition involving severe distress before, during and after exams which makes it impossible for a student to perform their best. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, high-test anxiety affects between 16 percent and 20 percent of students and a moderate form of the condition affects another 18%. This represents a high percentage of students who cannot properly represent their abilities when assessed through exams. 

At UConn, finals are a week of exams that determine a significant portion of your grades for the semester. It is common for each class to have an exam worth a quarter of a student’s grade in that week. That stress in undeniably difficult for students to cope with. Instead of this, some universities, like Harvard, find that finals are becoming a matter of the past.

At Harvard, unless a professor informs the registrar during the first week of classes, it is assumed that the course will not need a slot reserved for a final. In 2010, less than 23 percent of the courses reserved a final exam period. Other skill assessments, like papers and projects, can analyze a student’s progress through the semester.

Some finals are necessary. However, it should be the university’s top priority to lower the levels of stress that students feel during this end of the semester crunch. These stress levels can be unhealthy.

It is also important for the university to weed out the finals that are nothing but pointless memorization. Professors should list their reasoning for final exams instead of alternative papers or projects. They should detail the benefits that final exams will give to the course and how they enhance their ability to evaluate the progress of the students.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.