Final Exams Week: Frenzied Failure, or Fantastic Finish?

Final exams.  They are the bane of many students’ existence, yet they are also a very necessary part of the college’s program.  Since college students are supposed to be adults, and since they have to pay for their education, they are also required to give account for what they are supposed to learn through the semester.  Thus, at the end of the semester is the most dreaded week of all: Final Exams Week.

For some, this week is simply an extension of what they’ve done all semester long, a practical application of knowledge garnered from the course of their studies, a reproduction of nuggets of wisdom from notes taken during many trying hours of classroom instruction.  For others, it’s a harrying week of trying desperately to recall which instructor said what when, and why they said it.  For still others, it’s a week of realizing that they should have tried harder than they did to stay awake in class!  Let’s step into a classroom during an exam, and observe some typical reactions.

“Clear your desks, please.”  Nathan Deatrick’s clear voice issues from behind his podium as he shuffles his test papers, glancing over his glasses at the clock on the rear wall of the classroom.  “Let’s begin with a word of prayer, and then we’ll get started.”  A collective low moan ascends from the students assembled in their desks before him.  Some are slouched, looking absolutely miserable, as if they wish to drop of the face of the earth.  Still others are sitting hunched over their desks, their heads cradled in their hands, as though they will explode at any given moment.  And all this before the test begins!

Now the prayer is ended, the exam is beginning, all chances for procrastination are past.  To my left sits a student who appears to have trouble remembering what he studied for this test…the thoughts are moving through his head like molasses.  Every so often, he will stop writing and hold his head, as though it’s paining him to try and think this hard. Ahead of me sits another student who has obviously studied very much for this exam…the thoughts are humming down the corridors of his mind at speeds resembling a NASCAR race car.  To my right sits a young lady who’s studied quite a bit, but she’s one of those who thinks through each question carefully before writing an answer.

How do I take an exam?  I try to memorize everything I need to know, run in there, grab the test paper, write it all down, then walk out.

It is uncertain where the phrase “Final Exams” originated, but this author would like to venture a theory: perhaps in a morgue?  The sound of this phrase has such a finality (pun intended) to it that one would almost expect it to be used there.  After all, is that not what morticians do?  They give people their final exams!  It’s sad that there is common ground between a morgue and a college, but the truth is that there is an unpleasant side to the institution of education.

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