Final exam vs. final essay

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Phillip Downey/File

The phrase “lesser of two evils” has been thrown around quite frequently this last year. From presidential elections to last weekend’s alcohol choice, this principle has touched us all in some special way. This week, the battle ensues once more as we’re faced with settling the differences between final exams and final essays. We at the Clog are here to put this issue to rest once and for all — we invite you to join us for the ride in lieu of actually preparing for said finals.

Preparation for final exams presents a classic high-risk, high-reward situation. You can tirelessly study as much of the material as mentally, physically and humanly possible only to find that the one lecture you forgot about is the one that matters most. We’ve all been there. We pour over the textbook and problem sets into the wee hours of the morning, blissfully unaware that the material we’re reviewing will actually be completely useless on the day of our test. We memorize every part of a plant cell only to find out that the final revolves around the obscure topic that was covered in week two when nobody was paying attention. That’s right, your immense knowledge on the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, is irrelevant.

While final papers are significantly less risky, they are subject to significantly harsher grading. In most final exam cases, the GSIs and readers are aware that you were forced to vomit every fact even loosely related to the topic at hand onto your green book. They turn a blind eye to the fact that you misspelled a dozen different words and kindly search for any way to reward you points while working through the chicken scratch inside the test booklet. This is not the case for final papers. Essays that you have days, sometimes even weeks, to work on are justly expected to be as close to perfection as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Misplaced commas are subject to scrutiny and your thesis is likely to be torn to shreds.

Then there’s the question of the duration of suffering. For those Band-Aid rippers out there, final exams are the preferred method of punishment. A few short hours of serious discomfort is better than days on end of mild suffering at the hands of pesky paper prompts. If you’re a fan of waxing and pimple popping, the quick and dirty pathway to freedom by way of final exams is probably the route for you. Contrastingly, control freaks often prefer essays so they have more time to finagle every grammar structure and confer with an online thesaurus to consider every possible adjective. If you were the kind of kindergartner that used to let their loose tooth dangle from their gums for weeks on end, final essays are the way to go.

Whatever your poison may be, final exam or essay, we can all agree that both of these tasks need to be behind us!

Contact Amanda Chung at [email protected].