As it gets closer to the end of the semester, I start to get more questions concerning final exams. The most common question is, “What do you think about allowing students to earn exemptions from finals?”

Overall, I think the practice is counter-productive and should not occur.

Exemptions are generally granted for two reasons, either to encourage students to attend class and/or to do all of their work to maintain a high grade. Many teachers swear that the incentive works in both cases.

However, in spite of the bump to attendance and grades that exemptions may provide, they are bad practice. The primary purpose of a test or assessment is to provide objective instructional data to staff. A final exam provides this data for an entire course (or semester). But if significant numbers of students are exempted from the exam, the data provided is suspect at best. Which would lead me to believe that the staff isn’t using final exam data for instructional purposes. So why exactly are the final exams being administered?

Which means that the real question should be, “Do we give a final exam or not?”

If the exam data isn’t being used to inform course level instructional decisions, don’t give one. If the data is being used, make sure that the data set represents the entire class. Then find other ways to encourage students to come to class and turn in their work.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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