How early should finals be taken?
Two staffers offer their opinions on early finals in AP classes
May 31, 2019
As the school year comes to a close, students frantically begin studying for final exams, which are typically held during the last week of school. However, in some AP classes, teachers choose to administer finals before AP testing, which usually begin on the first week of May, so that students will be able to prepare for the AP exam along with the final. There are significant benefits and drawbacks to early finals: students can begin studying for AP exams earlier and delve into more advanced topics after the final, but at the same time, a valuable studying period is lost for those struggling to bring up their grades.
For early finals
While early finals do subtract from the valuable time that students have to study, they make up for it by decreasing student stress and opening up the end of the school year for exploration beyond the course’s curriculum.
Early finals are convenient for students in AP classes as studying for the course’s final can help students prepare for the coming exams. Since teachers hold their students to AP standards, reviewing course material for the final allows students to study earlier for the upcoming AP exam. This is especially beneficial for students who have difficulty with time management, as the final can serve as a practice test for the mastery of material that will be tested by the College Board.
Teachers usually give early final exams nearly a month before the school’s allotted finals week, with some as early as the week after spring break. Although this limits the time that students have to raise their grades, teachers use the free weeks after AP testing to assign final projects that give students the chance for a last-minute grade boost. Projects diversify the content that is taught in the classroom and enables students choose what material they want to learn. For example, In AP Computer Science A, students are assigned a project requiring them to use the data structures they have learned to build an program of their choice, such as a game or an application. In AP English Literature, students assemble a reflective portfolio, write letters to their future selves, share their favorite works of literature, and create a timeline of their four years in high school.
Without early finals, students would have to juggle both AP and college preparatory coursework, cramming for numerous subjects and taking multiple hour-long exams during finals week. By giving final exams for AP classes prior to the AP exam, teachers reduce student stress by spacing out the tests students will have to take, allowing students to relax as the school year ends. This is advantageous for student performance because students are likely to feel fatigued after a marathon of studying, which may negatively impact their exam performance.
Overall, the reduced time that students have to prepare for finals and AP testing is a small price to pay for the numerous advantages that come with early finals. Early finals decrease stress, prepare students well for AP testing, and give teachers time to let students creatively explore the topics they have studied throughout the year; these conveniences tip the scales greatly in favor of implementing early finals in AP courses.
For late finals
It is much more advantageous to take finals after AP exams since it allows a greater amount of time to prepare for the class’s final exams and ultimately benefits a student’s GPA. For college decisions, GPA is more important than AP scores. Thus, having more time to study for final exams is usually more beneficial than taking finals early. Many AP classes give the final exam soon after they finish learning all the coursework; this gives students an inadequate amount of time to master a year’s worth of material within a few days.
Taking finals prior to AP exams as opposed to during finals week usually gives students three to five more weeks to study, which is a significant amount of time to review. When a student has a borderline grade, this extra study time can make or break their final grade.
In addition, AP exams are a way to practice for final exams. Students study extensively for AP exams to attain a passing score that allows them to skip classes or acquire college credits at some universities. Based on past statistics, Lynbrook students perform extremely well on AP exams on average. Last year, 92.8 percent of all Lynbrook students that took the AP exam passed, and 51.5 percent of those students earned a score of 5 out of 5.
After studying for AP exams and taking the AP test, students will be extremely prepared and well versed in the material.
Further, it is undoubtedly more important to allow students more time to study for final exams, since a student’s GPA matters more than AP scores. While reporting AP scores to colleges is generally considered optional, it is always necessary to report GPA when applying to universities. According to the National Association For College Admission Counseling, 79.2 percent of 231 colleges ranked grades in college preparatory courses as of considerable importance, while only 7 percent ranked AP scores of considerable importance. Additionally, after admission to a college, a senior’s second semester grades cannot drop significantly, or else their admission may be rescinded.
AP exams serve as a practice test for AP classes’ final exams, and having final exams on their typical date rather than prior to the AP exam allows for students to better prepare for the final exam. With colleges weighing a student’s GPA over his or her AP exam scores, the extra time to prepare for the potentially grade-changing final exam is extremely advantageous.