With the pressure of a final test weighing down most students’ minds, it is always a cause for celebration when a teacher announces that there will be no final exam, but instead, a final project. Though final projects may seem like interactive alternatives, they do not offer the same value as final tests.
As the name suggests, final tests are meant to be the final measure of what a student has learned throughout the semester. Final projects, on the other hand, are not cumulative. Although projects like music videos can be informative and memorable, there is no way to cover an entire semester’s worth of material in a simple project.
The importance of final exams may not be clear at the end of the first semester, but—especially in AP classes—students need extra motivation to remind themselves of the concepts they learned in the beginning of the year. When students are working toward an AP test, which is one gigantic final test in itself, final exams allow students to get a refresher of the material.
Students may complain about having to cram a semester’s worth of knowledge in the days leading up to the final, especially after retaining nothing from the beginning of the year, but in the bigger picture, it is much better to have them learn the material halfway through the school year than in the week before the AP test.
Another problem with final projects is that students will not learn from them. Most final projects are presented to the entire class and students are expected to absorb the information. However, when some projects consist of attempts to make the class laugh, the initial goal of reviewing material goes out the window. Students already have a hard time paying attention in class—they cannot be expected to learn from other students’ presentations.
In addition, final projects take up more precious time than final exams. In classrooms with around 30 students, presenting individual projects will take a few days. If teachers opt to assign group projects for the sake of time, it is possible that not everyone will pull their own weight, resulting in an unfair division of work. Projects also require more time to plan and make than simply studying for a subject.
It’s not that projects should be banned. Projects allow students to explore various methods of learning, develop skills such as teamwork and apply knowledge. However, a project shouldn’t be the last determining factor of a student’s grade. Perhaps the best course of action would be to assign both a final project and a final exam.
While a final project alleviates the stress that students feel with their grade dependent on one last test, also having a final exam would encourage students to learn the material from the semester. Although it ultimately does call for more work, this would be the best course of action for students to receive the benefits of both final projects and final tests.