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Evaluating Semester Exams: Excuse Me, Please


Final exams are not the highlight of the school year, especially during the bleak mid-January cold, or the sunny warm days of June. Thus, the question of the double-A exam exemption policy arises. Should straight-A students be rewarded by not having to take the exam after persevering through the grind of the semester?

The double-A exam exemption policy–occasionally proposed but never approved by the Board of Education–would mean that students do not have to take the final exam for a course in which they received an A both quarters. One purpose of exams is to give students an opportunity to raise their semester grades, so that what shows up on their transcript is more desirable. However, a student who receives A’s both semesters can score down to a C on the final and still maintain the A.

According to Sherwood High School senior Rachel Post, “students who go double A have obviously shown a hard work ethic and a mastery of the subject matter.” In the case of a student receiving a D or below on the exam, she added, “the exam does nothing but penalize you. Semester exams are unnecessary and unfair to [those] hardworking students.”

Many feel that students who demonstrate 18 weeks of proficiency throughout the semester should not allow one two-hour exam to threaten the final grade. Richard Montgomery freshman Albert Zhang stated, “I don’t see why I should take an exam on something I’ve already mastered… clearly shown by my A’s in the first two quarters. The semester exams only serve to make me stressed and tired [due to] studying and taking multiple two-hour exams.”

Zhang does not stand alone with regards to the mental state of concern. Churchill senior WeiAnne Reidy corroborated, “I felt like exams were a waste of my time because it would do nothing for my grade; the only thing it gave me was anxiety because I was scared I would bomb [them].”

The double-A exam exemption policy would not only rescue these diligent students from days of agony during exam week, but also save hours of time, wasted on studying for a pointless test. Richard Monmtgomery sophomore Daisy Grant pointed out that “if someone has managed to routinely succeed in the class, there should be no need to test their memorization skills again at the end of the semester.” Moreover, it would also provide many with an incentive of reward to achieve the double-A status: “It motivates people to work harder so that they don’t have to take the exam,” stated Cabin John Middle School eighth grader Dina Sapiro.

The terms of reward may contribute to greater levels of cheating, from desperation to be exempt from the final exam. According to Richard Montgomery junior Andy Kostka, “some people might strive to get double-A any way possible.” He added that “it would make life easier [especially] with sports, and if [people think they] have to copy homework some nights, [they] will.”

This stunts the whole purpose of school: to educate. Richard Montgomery freshman Simon Gershunskiy explained that students often fail to “retain knowledge [and] most of the time, our teachers teach us ‘for the test’: unit tests [or] quizzes.” After all, a student who has earned an A both quarters should have no trouble earning a C on the exam.

Many argue that a final exam reinforces the material learned throughout the semester. Whitman senior Alissa Hummer argued that the exam “is a good opportunity for students to learn and demonstrate the material for the course, which is good preparation for university.” Gershunskiy also later added that “a final exam should be required because it forces student[s] to penetrate [course topics] into their minds and learn not by memorization, but by thinking at a higher level and fully understanding the topics being introduced.”

Article by MoCo Student Opinions writer Yueyang Ying

Image by MoCo Student staff artist Aashna Pradhan

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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One Response to Evaluating Semester Exams: Excuse Me, Please

  1. a MCPS student Reply

    March 1, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Wouldn’t the exemption encourage kids to take really easy courses? And how would this work with high school courses taken in middle school?

    It doesn’t really seem fair that someone who gets a low A in every class each quarter and doesn’t remember any of the material should automatically get an A in the course and get extra time, while a student who gets a 89.4% one quarter has to do so much more work to earn the final grade.

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