Teachers search for the most effective type of final assessment


Last minute cram sessions in the College and Career Center, arduous classes working on elaborate individual and group projects, staring at computer screens, working away at lengthy essays: finals can be an extremely stressful time for Berkeley High School students, and one of the greatest factors that can dictate a student’s level of stress is the type of final that teachers decide to assign. Some may choose to give a traditional test, while others may assign a project or an essay. A lot goes into the decision behind which type of final to give.

BHS teacher Joseph Poppas has elected to give his psychology students a test this year. “I like a final that has a short answer, some multiple choice, a little matching. I like students to be able to really show off their knowledge. Final exam period is like this special moment for students to actually display and demonstrate their abilities,” said Poppas. While he knows this can be stressful, he does a lot of review in class with his students to ensure that they are well prepared and know what to expect when finals day comes around. 

Some students at BHS see the merit in the test method Poppas described. “I kind of like that sometimes it’s just simple. You study for something and (then) you go in and take it; it’s not super complex and I think finals tend to be, in my mind, a little bit easier because it’s very surface level compared to unit test that’s really focused on the content you’ve been doing,” said Holden Elias, a BHS senior.

On the other hand, International Baccalaureate and Latinx history teacher Rebecca Villagran views tests as more stressful for students, and finds them time-consuming to grade. For her Latinx History class she is holding a socratic seminar discussing the book ‘Solito’. However, like Poppas, she has reserved the two weeks leading up to finals for her students to prepare.  

“I think (it is) a good final because you can grade it as it is (it doesn’t require grading outside class),” Villagran said, adding that she is “pretty confident everyone will have something to say, even if they didn’t read the whole book.” 

On the other hand, in her IB History class, students are doing a group project where they create a visual essay.

“It’s easier for me to grade, I don’t have to grade 90 individual ones, I just have to grade a couple per class. I really think about that, because especially now that finals are right before Christmas and the break, I don’t want to be having so much to do,” said Villagran  However, Villagran admits that group projects can be stressful if some individuals fall sick or don’t contribute, leaving the other group members to do double the work. 

“Projects, especially when you’re working with a group, end up sucking up so much of your time,” said Elias. “They always feel like they’re so rushed.”

Lastly, another method of finals that is more common in English classes is that of having a final essay. For instance, in IB English classes, students are to write a 1200 to 1500-word essay based on poems, films, or speeches explored in the class. 

In Poppas’ Politics and Power class, students are required to write a reflection on what they learned over the course of the semester. “(Politics and Power) is a simulation class and requires a different kind (of final),” said Poppas.

“I’ve had a bunch of English essays that I think are fair … you get to edit them, and you can work on them for a while,” said Sierra Ott, a BHS senior. 

Some teachers use their period to provide a break during the stress of finals week. “Really, my favorite final is no final,” said Elias.