Final essays are better than final exams

By Piper Rutherford | Staff Writer

Although summer is right around the corner, finals stand in the way of students and professors taking a break from the stress of school.

That stress oftentimes stems from test anxiety for many students, who fear the scantron and are forced to repetitively review flashcards and study guides with the hope of being able to regurgitate facts and formulas on the dreaded exam date.

According to Mind Diagnostics, between 10% and 40% of students experience test anxiety.

This sensation only worsens during a 50- to 100-question exam, which requires more from a student in a short period of time.

While test anxiety is nothing new — and many of our parents and grandparents have similar stories of their hearts racing and palms sweating before being handed an exam — there is an alternative: final essays.

Although some students prefer final exams with the argument that it takes less time to prepare for them, there are far more benefits to having a final essay this exam season.

Firstly, there is no one right answer when writing a paper. Essays give students a chance to apply their critical thinking skills by exploring their own perspectives on class content rather than regurgitating facts and formulas. Furthermore, prompts tend to cover a specific topic rather than requiring you to review the material from the entirety of the semester.

Secondly, while some argue that an essay grade is subjective to the professor, an essay provides students with a roadmap for success in the form of a rubric. The rubric is an objective outline, detailing exactly what the professor is looking for and how you can achieve a perfect score, if you play your cards right. This means that there are no surprises.

When addressing the positives of following a rubric, Southwestern University said, “By explaining what a ‘poor’ demonstration of a certain skill looks like, rubrics helps students avoid common pitfalls. … Students provided with rubrics report less anxiety about the writing process. … Students use rubrics for a guide when drafting and revising, and are more likely to produce essays that meet the learning goals of the assignment.”

Since an essay is assigned well in advance of its due date, those who struggle with writing also have plenty of time to visit their professor during office hours or schedule an appointment with the University Writing Center. This not only shows professors the hard work they are putting into their essays but also allows them to get assistance from experts who can answer any questions or concerns they might have about concepts, organization, formatting, sources or grammar.

So, think twice before you complain when your professor assigns you a final essay. This could be to your benefit, and your grade and mental health will thank you for it.