Final Exam Pressure is Unnecessary, Needs Change

The final exam period of the semester is in sight and with it comes unnecessary stress and anxiety for almost all college students nationwide; USF students included. According to, chiropractors across the United States see an increase in visits twice a year among college students during the one week period during which most students are taking their exams.
Those are the students that are taking a safe route to reducing stress. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the number of anxiety and sleep medication and stimulant-related illnesses and deaths for students during final exams is higher. The Wall Street Journal reported that Adderall, which the Journal describes as “a high-acting mixture of amphetamines,” is used more frequently and more heavily during final exams by students who have not been prescribed the medication.
The culture of crazy stress during finals has been instilled in us for so long that we have accepted it as being the norm. But why, during a roughly four month long semester, should students be overwhelmed during a two week period that makes or breaks the end result of an entire semester worth of work? The week of final exams is becoming more and more unreasonable each semester as students are taking as many as three exams a day, studying through the night for a week straight, and professors are assigning new material the week before. In some cases, professors have not assigned anything all semester until final exams, during which multiple papers and exams are assigned.
There are several reasonable solutions to reduce the dangerously high stress levels of students during exam periods. Professors need to spread their assignments out. It is understandable that we have an exam or a research paper at the end the semester to pull together all of the information we have learned. Waiting until the end of the semester to assign anything of significance is not.
Another would be to extend the finals period. If exams took place over the final two weeks of the semester, the stress would be significantly reduced. Students would not be cramming for multiple exams through the night and show up to take the exam half asleep. There would be enough time to spread out the studying over those two weeks.
Professors should not be assigning new material the week before finals. Students already have months of material to re-read and study. Nothing significant is going to be taught or learned right before finals because students are already reviewing material and feeling the heat of the upcoming exams. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience at Rockefeller University, “stress decreases a person’s performance in tasks that require attention, including the ability to shift focus as well as to learn and unlearn information.” It is unreasonable to expect students to learn new material while pressuring them to review everything else learned throughout the semester. If the new material is that important, it should be taught before the exam period is upon us.
Finally, students should not have to take more than two exams in one day. It is unreasonable to expect someone to retain three semester-long classes of information throughout the day. When taking an exam, students want to focus on one. Students do not want to have material in their mind from another class or think about the next exam in the middle of the first one. If the exam period is extended, this would not be an issue. If it is not extended, the final exam schedule needs to be organized in way that gives students the best chance at success.
It is reasonable for students to request and expect some of these changes during the next final exam period. Finals are supposed to be a good thing. They are supposed to tie everything together for students and make sense of what was learned throughout the semester. Many universities have lost sight of that. Finals are supposed to help retain information, not harm health.


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