Final exams: A modern ritual of maturity

By: Jarrad R.
Highland Secondary School
Comox, British Columbia

Personal merit from months of work and classroom learning is either affirmed or destroyed within a single sitting of a few hours. And, oddly enough, as one gets higher in the grades, and one's marks become all the more important (and actually relevant to one's life and future), these wretched exams come to hold all the more weight.

Copyright of Canada's SchoolNet

In English 12, for example, the final exam is worth 40% of everyone's grade. And this is a course observed by all universities as part of admission requirements. There is no escaping this awful truth: the direction of one's post-secondary existence, especially the next four years, is going to be determined by three incredibly important hours. This is a time when mistakes are fatal, when wounds are lasting. And pity the poor fool who gets sick during exam week.

What sort of sadistic perversity has led us to this state, to so universally endorse this gruelling trial? The exam is given such weight, such power, that it can inflict permanent damage upon the aspiring student. The exam is a modern resurgence of the primeval instinct for the young to prove themselves to the past generation, show their worthiness and aptitude. This is a rite of passage. We must prove to our predecessors that we have acquired the skills necessary for survival in the real world. We must prove that the future of our society is in capable hands. We must prove that, at the end of our thirteen years of education (which the past generation has paid for and provided), we have learned, just as well as any who have come before us, how to B.S..

The exam does not assess our scope of knowledge; it isn't about that. Exams test us on the ability to cram long-forgotten information back into our minds for one week, and then spit it back up on paper. Most people can attest that after exam week, most of this learning is forgotten forever.

No brain is perfect. It is inevitable that a student will at some point in the exam find a question, the answer of which eludes him. It is in these crucial, deciding moments, that we must show off our true acquired skills.

English exams are a prime example. Never in his entire school career has this writer, nor anyone he has ever heard of, once penned anything at all close to being of a profound or meaningful nature in this exam. It is impossible. Essay topics are suggested to us such as "Angst", "Growing Pains", and whatnot. What are we meant to do with that? Nothing, and that's the point. This is our time to shine, to blather on for all we're worth, to carry on about nothing of substance or relevance, to produce nothing more than meaningless bulk upon the page. This is not merely an exam, this is Advanced Pontification 101, a course all of itself.

And no copying or cheating . . . oh no, they want to make sure that the gibberish on your page is nobody's but your own (and I am certain that in matters as serious as this, a flogging is never too severe to be out of the question). This ability is essential to an individual's well-being and continued existence in our society. This is why exams are worth so much in the higher grades — we are nearing the time when we must leave the public school system, must strike out on our own; if there is one thing we need to know from our public school years, the ability to radiate hogwash is it.

Exams in earlier grades are practice runs, but this, this is the real thing, preparing us for the real world. It is time, at last, to put ourselves, and our proverbial mental diarrhea, to the test.

Advanced Pontification, here I come.