Exam week move receives praise, criticism

Exam week move receives praise, criticism

(Photo courtesy of Walsh Jesuit)

Last year, Fr. Mark Carr made the executive decision to switch exam dates from after Christmas break to before. In an email sent to parents last February, when the changes were being announced, Fr. Carr stressed that the change was being made to allow students to have “a genuine break from school over the Christmas vacation without pressure of projects, homework, or upcoming exams” and to help provide colleges with first semester transcripts in a timely manner. Faculty were informed that the new schedule would be in effect for two years on a trial basis.

Last semester the switch was made, with the feedback from students being overwhelmingly positive. Anne Sweeney, a senior, echoed the thoughts of many students when stating, “I like being able to spend time with my family and friends and enjoying the holidays without having to stress about school.”

Traditionally, the idea of holding exams after break was to provide students with an ample amount of time to study over break. Before break, teachers often provided study guides which covered the topics that would appear on the semester exam. Although students may have left for break with the best intentions, most of the time their idealistic study plans failed to materialize. Junior Nicole Powers encapsulated the nagging feeling of knowing that she should study when she admitted that she was “always subconsciously thinking about studying or doing homework and not fully being present [with her] family and friends.”

This guilty feeling, although persistent, didn’t drive most students toward productivity. Senior Sophie Malynn is one of many who didn’t find themselves maximizing their review time. “I can’t say I ever studied during break, at least not really sat down and studied for hours at a time” she said.

On the other hand, some students used the holiday time to study virtually nonstop, which was not always the healthiest decision. Natalie Chase, another senior, described her study pattern during break to be “obsessive” and is convinced that having final exams before break is better for her mental health.

Students also felt that they retained more knowledge when exams occurred immediately after the end of the fall semester.  “Exams being held before break allowed for an overall increase in percentages on my tests, because I had all of the information fresh in my mind since I had already been studying the topics beforehand,” said Quinton Smole, a junior.

Mrs. Beth Barker, a history teacher, had hoped Quinton’s results would be evident in her students’ exam grades, however, she didn’t believe that there was a discernible difference over previous years grades and went so far to say that she was disappointed with the results that she received. History teacher Dr. Douglas Worthington mirrors her feelings, as he likes having exams after break. His reasoning is exactly the same as Mrs.Barker, who stated, “I also liked that [third quarter] was broken up by exams, January and February can feel pretty long.”

Since students went directly from regular classes to final exams, some teachers felt that students remained in “school mode” and were more engaged in the classroom through the final week of the semester. Mrs. Julie Puckett, an English teacher, felt that “the last week of school was extremely productive” and that students were truly focused during exam days.

(Photo courtesy of Walsh Jesuit)
Most students found that moving exam week before break allowed them to better relax, be fully present to family, and refresh for the semester ahead.

With exams after break, there was an extra week between final exams and regular classes, allowing more material to be covered. Exams before break eliminated an entire week of classes. This caused the end of the semester to seem very rushed to many. As junior Micheal Robusto said, “The teachers took the opportunity to cram extra material into midterm instead of focusing on making sure the students really grasped the material  they were taught. This left students with little time to study on their own for subjects they needed help with.”

Should we keep exams before Christmas break next year?

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Although the faculty and student body expressed different opinions, overall, the feedback about the exam schedule was positive. Guidance counselor Mr. Michael Gladstone noticed that students were extremely relaxed and worry-free after break this year, which is why he prefers having exams before break. He emphasized, “The school wants students to be happy, safe, and successful, and this is a better way of helping that become a reality for them.”