Sophomore Ming Zhu's review material for the semester one physics final. Because of all the finals that he had to study for, Zhu felt pressured to start preparing during winter break rather than wait for in-class review sessions.

MY ANGLE: Should semester one finals be moved to before winter break?

Ming Zhu
Sophomore Ming Zhu’s review material for the semester one physics final. Because of all the finals that he had to study for, Zhu felt pressured to start preparing during winter break rather than wait for in-class review sessions.

After a year of hard work, school is finally finished. Finals are over, students have received their grades and everyone is enjoying a long, relaxing summer break – especially me.

I studied hard, took the semester two finals with confidence and earned a well-deserved break.

However, thinking back to the semester one finals, I had an entirely different feeling afterward.

I couldn’t enjoy the two-week-long winter break because it came right before finals, and I knew that major studying was right around the corner.

During the break, I studied for most of the two weeks. I was able to rest for a few days, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the finals soon coming up.

As school resumed, I had to work through another week of frantic review before taking the exams and, ultimately, did worse than I had expected.

Did I waste my break away studying for nothing?

And the nightmare continued even after the tests because there was barely a pause before work picked up again. I had only a three-day weekend to recover, and semester two started before I felt like I had even finished the first one. As a result, I was not ready at all for more schoolwork the week after finals were over.

My bad experience with the winter exam schedule made me nervous for the second round of finals near the end of the year. However, as the weeks went by, I soon realized I had nothing to worry about.

In almost all my classes, we finished the curriculum two weeks before the final. As a result, I was able to start reviewing early and without pause, and I was ultimately more prepared to take my finals.

And while I was just as exhausted by this finals week as I was before, this time I had the reward of a break.

After my very different experiences with the two semester finals, I thought of an ingenious idea: What if we had winter break after the finals instead?

Having a break before finals made it hard for me to decide if I should relax or study during it. Some students might even spend the entire time studying, which defeats the purpose of a break!

Personally, knowing there is a break after a big test makes it easier to fully commit to studying, because I know I’ll be able to relax after pushing myself so hard.

In all my classes this year, we finished learning new material right before break, which was awkward because it meant in-class review for finals started after break – the time students were least willing to study.

Although I’ve gone through only one year of high school, this set-up seems to be a trend with most classes – the break is just the calm before a storm of review.

The current schedule forces me to choose between wasting my precious break time to study or wasting my precious study time to relax – the latter of which I will most likely regret more later on. Either way, I am not able to enjoy my break to the fullest.

Fellow sophomore Pragathi Vivaik has a similar view. She said she spent half her break studying and would prefer having finals before break.

Moving the break to after the exams would also help close the gap between classes; right now, the break mostly causes students to forget information they have learned in class periods earlier on in the year, which is counterproductive when preparing for a final exam.

Plus, when students finally come back to school, in-class review sessions are more difficult because not many people still clearly remember the information.

If we were to have finals before break, course material would still be fresh on students’ minds, and it would ultimately be less work to study. This way, not only could students study more efficiently, but we would be able to treat winter break as an actual break instead of an at-home study session.

Finally, by having winter break after semester one finals, the break could serve as a proper division and allow students to recover and start afresh in semester two.

At my old school back in Beijing and for a majority of schools in China, the two semesters are divided by a final before a month-long break.

While this specific set-up wouldn’t work here, the core structure of a final followed by a break remains the same.

Similarly, other local high schools, such as Jesuit High School and C.K. McClatchy High School, also have finals before break.

“I like (having our finals) before break because you don’t have to think about it during the break,” Jacob No, my friend and a sophomore at Jesuit, said. “(The break) relieves a lot of stress, and nobody wants to work while on break.”

This change would make the weeks preceding finals tougher, but it’s better than having a worrisome break before finals.

And like Jacob said, who wants to spend their break studying?

—By Ming Zhu

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