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Final exams: not your average tests

Studying itself is taxing to the teenage brain


We’re all passionate about something, whether it’s gun control, health care reform or keeping Portland weird. But what’s the teen cause? What perceived injustice inspires teens to indignant action? Well, there isn’t one. Political involvement is below “do homework” on our lists, which is below “fix hair,” which is below “get swag.” You get the idea.

But, as a voice into the minds of today’s youth, I think I’ve found a cause that every teen will support: an end to final exams.

Now, I know this would never work. First, I’m sure finals have lots of educational benefits, like teaching you how to write an insightful, well supported, five-paragraph essay in 90 seconds (a skill that comes with practice). For another, I’d bet that most teachers, school board members and parents don’t have any issue with finals. Heck, the biggest barrier would have been that I don’t even believe in scrapping finals, although I wouldn’t mind requiring them all to be multiple choice with only one answer choice.

There’s a reason I brought up finals, though. You see, one week ago today, both LO high schools finished their first semester finals. Students were brain-dead. We had wrist cramps. We couldn’t even walk farther than 5 feet without collapsing.

OK, that might be a bit of over dramatization. Some of us could definitely walk 10 — or even 30 — feet before mumbling things like, “I and III only,” or, “all of the above,” and then losing consciousness.

At this point, you think I’m exaggerating. I’ve probably lost all credibility in your eyes. I could tell you that the world won’t end on Dec. 21st, 2012 and you wouldn’t believe me.

And that is precisely why I’m talking about finals. I’ve noticed that the adult demographic in society, and especially — not to single anyone out or anything — that one sub-demographic of adults who live with non-adults related to them who are direct offspring of said adults, has absolutely no idea what finals week entails.

This can go two ways, both of them bad. Some parents underestimate finals. They see no reason why you can’t sweep the kitchen, walk the dog, vacuum the house, wash the car, do the dishes, wash the dog, vacuum the dog, hang the kitchen, dust the dishes and walk the car and still get your studying done.

Other parents overestimate just how difficult finals are; they’ll limit you to five-minute meals, three hours of sleep and 0 bathroom breaks to make sure you study everything possible. This is still preferable, however, to walking the car, or — even worse — doing the dishes.

As a junior, I’ve taken many final exams. Thus, in an effort to conquer your ignorance and allow you to appreciate what teens go through twice a year I’ve laid out the horrific details.

(Adult content advisory: Content may not be suitable for all adults for the following reasons: loads of stress, frightful amounts of studying, sexual themes*.)

Finals are called final exams because they are both the final test in any class and determine your final grade. Combine every previous test into one monster and then cram it into an hour and 45 minutes and you’ve either got a final exam or Frankenstein’s monster. If given a choice, most teens would rather take on the monster.

Furthermore, most finals are heavily weighted, representing 10 to 20 percent of your final grade. This means that if you have, say, a 92 percent in AP Honors Accelerated Linear Metaphorical Chemistry of the 20th Century, you could get a low B on the final and drop from an “A” to not an “A.”

And if those aren’t enough details for your depraved mind, the nature of trying to cram a semester’s worth of material into a 105-minute test results in some of the most insane tests ever created. It might be a 4,000 question multiple-choice test, where you must bubble an answer every 1.6 seconds. Or, it could be a test with multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, essay prompts, novel requirements and trilogy guidelines — required to be in cursive. (Actually, cursive has thankfully died out, less because of obsoleteness and more because any font where the capital letters bear more resemblance to sailboats or numbers than the letters they represent is a stupid idea.)

Final-ly (that deserves at least a chortle), though, one must understand that finals are not completely useless. We relearn an entire semester’s worth of material in only three days, or three hours, if you’re a procrastinator.

So, adults, be thankful that you don’t have finals. Until your boss asks you to recite all of the quarterly earnings reports, inventory spreadsheets, office memos and coffee machines your business has used in the last 15 years, you’ll never get to experience the infamous mental drain. But like most teen experiences, it’s best to stay back and avoid becoming collateral damage. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go regrow my brain.

*This was thrown in to make sure you read the rest of this column.

Joel Kwartler is a junior at Lake Oswego High School and writes a monthly column for the Review. To contact him, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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