Exams better for mastering material than final group projects

By Sriram Karumbunathan , Columnist

As finals week approaches, many classes either have a final exam or a final project. These are both alternate ways of showing you have mastered the class material. In some classes, there is clearly one that is more appropriate than the other. For example, theory classes will often incorporate exams, while classes oriented toward showing real world experience will have final projects. However, in classes where both are justified, I prefer final exams over group projects because they are a more accurate way of displaying your knowledge of the material.

In terms of preference, final projects are far worse than exams. Final projects often have a negative stereotype associated with them. The group you get paired with can turn into a nightmare, with various people not showing up, not doing their work or not even communicating.

However, the worst part about working with a group is simply coordinating between many people’s busy schedules. It often ends with only half of the group showing up at meetings, with people having to be filled in constantly and no one ever truly being on the same page. 

Depending on other people, especially if they are strangers, can be exasperating when your final grade is on the line. You never know who is committed to working hard and who is just looking to do the least work possible. When your final grade depends on a project, it is easy to stress about group work when it feels out of your control.

On the other hand, final exams can be both a group and a solo effort. You can study by yourself as much as you want, and when everyone has time, people can put their efforts together and help each other out. While the material can be studied in a group, everyone can also study as much as they want on their own time. It leads to a best-of-both-worlds situation because you can still collaborate and share knowledge, but the actual test will be a personal effort.

Final exams also test your knowledge much better than group projects. Finals test your knowledge cumulatively, while group projects tend to focus your skills on one aspect of the class. Often, students get assigned one specific part of a group project, while the rest of the team does everything else. This can lead to no one knowing the topic as a whole. In a final exam setting, people ensure that they know the entirety of a class since they are forced to be prepared for anything from the entire semester.

To be fair, there are a few benefits to having a final project over a final exam. They take away the nervousness from final exams because you usually have a good sense beforehand of the grade you will end up with and how your project compares to those of other groups.

They also allow you to learn how to collaborate with others.

However, in an academic setting, final exams are better for just teaching students course material. They put all of the responsibility on you, rather than having you depend on someone else for a good grade.

In the end, your grade is in your own control without anyone else to blame.

Sriram is a junior in Engineering. 

[email protected]