There is no finals answer

Emily Gonzalez

Eleventh week draws out feelings of anxiety (and/or relief) for many Lawrence students, as it signifies the end of the term and the beginning of finals. During this time, students will be finishing up papers, projects, or taking exams for their various courses.
The formats of finals at Lawrence vary greatly and depend on the teacher’s preference, as well as the style of the class-in science labs and some intro courses, for example, the exams may be multiple choice. There are, however, a few basic “technical” aspects of finals required of professors, many involving time scheduling.
“Lawrence has few regulations concerning finals, other than expecting strict adherence to the formal scheduled exam time,” said Martha Hemwall, the dean of student academic services. The exam time can be changed under two circumstances: if the entire class agrees on the change, or by getting approval from the dean of the faculty.
Another part of finals deals with students’ rights, and the various examinations they may have to take. If a student has three exams scheduled in a row-something rather uncommon-they may file an academic petition which is looked over by the faculty subcommittee on administration.
Despite the technical details, Lawrence faculty members are given much freedom over their choice of finals. As many students have also discovered, some classes do not require a final, but instead are based on exams or papers given over the term. “Some [classes] may require a final paper or oral presentation but not a written exam. Sometimes the final is optional for some students,” Hemwall said.
Two professors gave examples of the varying styles of exams. Professor Peter Peregrine, an associate professor of anthropology, stated that all of his exams are essay finals, varying from take-home essays with time limits, to essays that are similar to final papers. Asked whether or not the exams are always cumulative, Peregrine replied that “there is always at least one cumulative essay,” though he also noted that this largely depends on the class.
As for which test methods he prefers, Peregrine said “essays are much more effective evaluation tools” and are much easier for professors to develop.
A somewhat different perspective comes from Professor Gene Biringer, associate professor of music. In administering exams in his music theory/composition classes, Biringer agreed that how exams are weighed depends on the class level. “In a first-year theory class, the final exam will be a greater part of the final grade than in an advanced analysis course,” he said. Though finals in music theory courses may involve take-home exams that require listening to a music recording, the common factor here is that music theory tests are cumulative.
Though finals vary in their content and time limits-mostly because of teachers’ freedom over their exam formats-there are some common threads: cumulative grading and essay exams are two methods that professors tend to use, and students usually favor a certain type of exam, or classes that do not require exams at all.