Are final exams necessary in the modern classroom?

Published: October 14th, 2021

The much-dreaded exam can cause a lot of anxiety and loss of confidence for students, as well as creating extra work for education staff through added marking. With edtech like the ActivPanel now allowing for quick in-class polling and testing throughout the school year, are final exams necessary in today’s educational climate?

Debates around the necessity of standardised tests and end-of-year exams are nothing new, though COVID-19 has reignited this long-waged war in recent months. Across the world, exam periods have had to be altered, put on hold, or temporarily cancelled. This has forced schools to think of new ways to assess students. Is it finally time to say goodbye to tests?


The alternatives

With the ActivPanel, teachers can access polling apps to be used during lessons to assess student levels throughout the year, with results that can be easily stored to track progress. This opportunity for formative assessment means that teachers can look at where the class is as a whole, and place focused attention on aspects of the curriculum or individuals where needed.

Project-based learning is another alternative form of assessment that offers deep insights into the decision-making and problem-solving skills of students, putting learning principles into practical scenarios. Not only do students then gain the opportunity to put theory into practise in a way that is more relevant to the outside world, but they can increase confidence by testing their abilities in a less pressure-filled way than an exam scenario.


The cons

For students, exams can provoke anxiety that may lead to underperforming, or lack of confidence. This can have long-term detrimental effects, and may deter them from seeking out future learning opportunities.

Tests can also put limitations on the curricula that teachers feel they can present to the class, restricting lessons to content that will come up in future tests, potentially missing out on other relevant as to not detract from performance in future tests.


The pros

Many say final exams are still necessary, and can’t be compared with project-based assessments. While project-learning requires high-order thinking and decision making, these are different skills than demonstrated in traditional exams.

Formal exams also make it harder for students to cheat, as they are often presented in highly controlled, monitored environments.

Plus, the memory-retrieval process that is relied upon in testing situations is actually strengthened by exam study sessions, so students are exercising different aspects of their brain than with other forms of assessment.


Are final exams necessary? The verdict:

It seems that, for the time being, final exams are still necessary in the modern classroom. A combination of project-based learning, formative assessments like in-class polls, and traditional exams offers a rounded snapshot of students’ knowledge.

Mindfulness and preparation exercises can help reduce test anxiety for students, and are important tools for use throughout many aspects of school life and beyond.


Check out our blog on brain breaks to help promote mindfulness in your classroom before end-of-year exams kick off.