No final, no problem? Some students take nontraditional final exams

Although Chapman academic policy states that classes must meet during finals week, some students do not mind if they have nontraditional finals instead. Photo by Laura Claypool

The schedule is finalized, the classroom is reserved, but on Tuesday at 8 a.m., the day of the final, the seats of undeclared freshman Nick Downs’ statistics class will be empty.

Rather than make the students take the test during the allotted time, Downs said that his professor opted to make the final a take-home exam. The class has until Tuesday at 10 a.m., during the time of the scheduled final, to turn in the take-home exam, Downs said.

Unlike in-class finals, Downs said he feels that take-home tests set students up for success, adding that having time to take his final has significantly reduced his stress.

“It would honestly help students not freak out so much over one singular weekend because everyone’s trying to study for finals at the same time,” Downs said. “It’s like night and day. This class I have no stress for now.”

Chapman allows take-home finals, said Provost Glenn Pfeiffer, but they must be due at the time of the scheduled final. Although not every class is expected to have a written final, all classes are required to meet during the scheduled final exam period and that time should be used to wrap up the class in a cumulative way, Pfeiffer said.  

The ability for personal contact with professors is what differentiates Chapman from larger universities, Pfeiffer said, and meeting during finals allows for that to happen.

“As a recognition of the fact that we are required to have a certain amount of interaction between faculty and students, we still have this requirement that they meet during the exam week,” Pfeiffer said.

Chapman is a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredited school, so classes must meet a certain number of hours per credit, Pfeiffer said.

According to Chapman policies, “The typical three-unit course requires three contact hours per week and six hours of assigned coursework per week, or 45 contact hours and 90 hours of assigned coursework for a regular semester (15 weeks).”

Pfeiffer also said that having finals that are scheduled by the university is beneficial to students.

“If people started giving all their exams at odd times, it’s going to affect other classes,” Pfeiffer said.

Amanda Shake, a sophomore screenwriting major, said she feels like attending the final exam period should not be mandatory if doing so does not improve the student’s learning.

“It only really makes sense to do something during the final period if it’s actually going to benefit the goal of the class,” Shake said. “If it’s just to fill time, then it’s a waste of time.”

Shake said that for her history of film class, she still has to take an exam at the scheduled time, but that it is online, which she prefers.

“You can pick any environment you want to take it in. There’s no pressure of seeing people get up and leave,” Shake said.

Shake is also not required by her screenwriting professor to be in class for the final exam period, she said, since her final is to turn in the screenplay she wrote, which is not due until the weekend after finals.

“I think it should be up to the professor, because again, in a class like screenwriting, (having a final) really makes like no sense at all,” Shake said.

Pfeiffer said that being exempt from meeting during the finals period is possible, but rare.

“They can always ask their chair if (not meeting during the final period) is OK, as long as they have made the arrangements in advance, and they have the right number of class meeting times, but it’s pretty rare,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s the students who pay for the class; they deserve to have a full semester of class time.”

Amy Roach, a sophomore creative writing major, is also in a screenwriting class, she said, and is only required to turn in her script as a final, which she has the option to turn in early.  

Roach, who also doesn’t have a final exam for her advanced workshop in writing fiction class, said she doesn’t think attending a final class period should be necessary.

“I do not think that there should be class during the final exam period,” Roach said. “If you have a project that you can turn in earlier, you might as well.”

Roach said she prefers project-based finals over exams and thinks they are less stressful.

“I think finals are just memorization – it’s not really retaining anything,” Roach said.

Downs said he feels like having different variations of finals outside the traditional final exam schedule, like the take-home exam in his statistics class, would increase the quality of students’ work during the last few weeks of school.

It would honestly just help everyone kind of destress, relax a little bit, and actually enjoy the last two weeks of school instead of stressing so hard about it,” Downs said.

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