Final exams are an important test — for life

October 10, 2010

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KEITH O’BRIEN (“The test has been canceled,’’ Ideas, Oct. 3) omits two important reasons for retention of final exams for undergraduates.

First, final exams are part of the real world. Many medical schools heavily depend on final exams for student evaluation. At some law schools the entire grade for a course is determined by the final exam. The student entering postgraduate education without skills in taking final exams is at a significant disadvantage.

Second, final exams test mastery of undergraduate course subject matter. First-year medical students must learn a large amount of material at a rapid rate. The courses assume the student has a solid background in subjects required for admission (organic chemistry, biology, chemistry, etc).

In my experience, failure to have comprehensive knowledge of required undergraduate course prerequisites is the most common reason for failure in the first year of medical school.

I agree that undergraduate final exams are stressful. However, mastery of taking final exams will give the student necessary skills to perform beyond undergraduate work and self-confidence that will help relieve the stress of exams.

Dr. Thomas R. Browne
The writer is a retired professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.

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