Finals in a Pandemic- What To Expect

Lila Rose Cohen, Deputy Online Editor

December 15, 2020

 With finals quickly approaching, Arcata High School students study and prepare for their first time online finals. 
(Photo Credit: Isabel S. Wedll)

2020 has sure been a year to remember. The year started off with the threat of a WWIII with Iran, the murder of George Floyd, explosions in Beirut, devastating fires in both California and Australia, and of course, the deadly Coronavirus pandemic. All of these tragic events presented obstacles for all of us in different ways. As the year 2020 is finally coming to a close, we are presented with the daunting task of digital finals. At the end of last semester, our final exams were all but canceled because of how ill-prepared we all were for distanced learning. This semester, with more time to prepare, organized curriculums, and school schedules, digital finals will be attempted in earnest in most classes. 

With finals quickly approaching it’s important to know what to expect. According to the document put out by the AHS administration, each final period will be two hours long. The finals will start on Wednesday at the usual starting time, 8:45, and go until 10:45. There will then be a 15-minute break before the next final from 11:00 till 1:00. The same schedule will be true for Thursday and Friday. Because office hours will be canceled next week, teachers are recommending you email them with any questions or clarifications as soon as possible. 

Although the general schedule is laid out, many students are still not clear about what it will be like or the format they will be presented with on their actual final. 

AHS Junior Sienna Long expressed she doesn’t feel, “[as] prepared as I normally would be because of distanced learning.”

 With finals just days away, students feel some of their teachers,“[still] haven’t communicated clearly what our final is,” Senior Miles Johnson explained, and that,“ It’s really dependent on the teacher.”

 So while one anonymous freshman says she is, “Kinda confused about finals.” 

Taylor Nada, a freshman with a different schedule feels,“[Very] well prepared and that our teachers have given us enough information.” 

As students, it is easy for us to be frustrated with our teachers for how this year has been going. However, it’s important to remember that we are all dealing with this adjustment and the teachers are trying their best to support us. Math teacher 

Will Bagnall tells me his decision to forgo long finals in his classes this semester is just one of the many things he was forced to put “[on] hold until a time we can come face-to-face.” Steven Hoffman, the AHS chemistry teacher, feels finals are an essential part of his curriculum and so has decided to continue with a traditional test.

 He acknowledges that his student’s “level of comprehension is lower than if they were actually in the classroom.” So with that in mind, “the weight of finals and the impact on student’s grades will be smaller this year.” Similar to Hoffman’s approach, AP English and Freshman English teacher Julie Angles will continue with her usual end of semester assignments including a variety of short tests and essay projects. She explains that she is, “not changing much from previous years–more open-notes,” on the test and quizzes through. This change from closed book exams last year to open note/open book this year seems to be a continual theme throughout most teachers’ final plans because they don’t have a way to check or control what resources students use. 

Ultimately, Will Bagnall explains, the students who choose to use outside resources or look up answers “are only setting themselves up for failure, and they will have some very difficult work to do in order to be successful.”

This year’s finals may just be the strangest we have experienced yet, but Will Bagnall asserts “test-taking is an important experience because, let’s face it – we all have to take tests throughout our lives… Finals at AHS is an opportunity to experience the burden of test taking, particularly longer, higher-stakes testing.”