I would like to start off this article by saying that I don’t mind final exams; though I don’t think anyone thoroughly enjoys taking a final exam, I think that many are acceptable (and they usually are catered very well toward what the professor taught in class). The difference between a regular final exam and a departmental final exam are quite large; while a regular final exam is created by your professor to go over what they taught you in class, a departmental final exam is much like the name, in which the subject’s department are the ones who create the final. Not all subjects are required to conduct a departmental final, but when they do, it’s very obvious that there is a huge difference in exam styles once you reach the departmental level. Whenever I’ve taken a departmental final, it confuses me beyond reach; what you once knew about the subject goes totally out the window, especially since the style is completely different to what you’re used to. Considering this is the case, I’ve begun to think that these departmental-style exams are essentially setting students up for failure.
During the semester, you are put with a professor; each professor has a completely different teaching style. This may mean that they will give exams in a different way, or they may not give out exams at all. Some professors do not believe in the pressure of handing out exams, or don’t agree with the idea of cramming information in students’ brains, just for the information to disappear just moments after an exam. I’ve had some professors give out exams every other week, while others believe in take-home exams; every professor has their own style of teaching their students, but the departmental finals don’t take this into account. Though there may be one professor who gives out exams each month, and another professor who doesn’t give out any exams, each class will get the same exact exam.
Considering our semester is usually shorter than many schools around us (by a little over a week, plus with extra breaks we may get), professors may not always be able to get to teach all of the required material. Professors aren’t robots; they don’t have an extremely structured learning plan, because each class they teach may have a different dynamic (though I have seen some professors have some really great semester plans, but many of those professors have been teaching for 10+ years). Though one or two sections of a subject may not reach all of the course material, that course material will still be on the departmental final. This not only puts some students in an unfair position, but it also throws some blame on the professors (even though, because of human nature in the classroom, it may just be out of their control).
Much like I stated above, each professor has their own teaching style; with this, also comes the resources that each professor may provide, and the way they conduct their exams. I’ve had many departmental-style classes that give cheat-sheets for exams and open-note style exams, even though they are still in that departmental-exam requirement category. For example, I’m currently in an Accounting class, in which I’ve had two exams so far. My professor has allowed us to have a cheat-sheet for each exam, and each exam is conducted through Canvas. The Canvas exams have mostly multiple-choice questions, and some short answer questions. Though this is the case, the departmental final for this class is written, all multiple choice, and does not allow us to have any previous notes. Not only is this a drastic shift from what they are used to, but it also confuses us as to what we really need to know for the exam.
Departmental exams have become outdated over time, and create confusion for both the professors and the students. Rather than creating an exam that covers the whole department, creating the final exam responsibility should be given to each individual professor. Doing separate exams (much like they do in many departments) will allow the professor to cater to what they’ve already been doing in their classes.