Cumulative Exams: What’s There Purpose?


By Annie Bierman. Published April 25, 2011.

I understand that there has to be a way for the professors to evaluate the students on the coursework, but what is the purpose of a cumulative final? What a cumulative final feels to me is a regurgitation of 16 weeks of material that I will not remember in a week. Assessment, or what the final exam seeks to do, is to evaluate the student’s understanding and comprehension of the course goals, outlined by the professor at the beginning of the year. Therefore, it is NOT a test of a student’s ability to reiterate the textbook word-for-word or concept-for-concept. If a student cannot apply the word or concept to a real-life example, what then is the student really learning?

Practical application of the class material, through essays, analysis, or synthesize do much more than simply memorizing terms, facts, or answers to study questions. I would even prefer essay exams to objective tests. I say this because with essay exams, I have to be able to take all of the information I have learned within the class, add analysis, and support it with evidence.

In an objective exam, I would either choose a, b, or c. A final exam, which is basically a compilation of all the other course tests into one large test, does nothing to reinforce the material of the class. It is basically a game of short-term memory acquisition.

Scantron and other forms of letter-answer tests make grading tests almost streamline and efficient. Convenience, however, should have nothing to do with the evaluation methods of student learning.

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