Finally finals week

Should finals be before or after winter break?

Finals should be after break because students can use time over break to study and process all of the new material learned in December.

By Amina Raïss

Would it be nice to enter Winter break without having the stress of finals looming over your head? Sure. Would it be practical? No.

In an ideal world, our semester syllabus would be taught in perfect sync with our winter break and vacation schedule. The weeks before winter break would culminate with completing our final exams. However, this is not the case.

For starters, new material is often introduced in the last few weeks before the break.  If finals took place the week prior to break, our teachers would be forced to cram a significant amount of dense material into a very short time frame. This would certainly impact students’ ability to fully grasp and synthesize the information. This is especially true in Honors and AP classes, where the information is already taught in an accelerated fashion.  Further increasing the pace would almost force students to rely on rote memorization in lieu of retention and comprehension.

Winter break offers the advantage of allowing students to enhance their mastery of the subjects by allowing more time to prepare, by providing ample time for both relaxing and studying. If students don’t use the break as additional study time, they will still have another two weeks and weekends to review the course material when school resumes. The slower pace of vacation allows us to recharge our batteries and gear up for finals, however it’s up to the person if they spend some time studying.  

Of course, finals are stressful. Tests in general are stressful. Contrary to some opinions, final exam testing before winter break would not decrease the stress level. Classes are fast paced in the first semester, with the constant introduction of new concepts to master, but now that there are two whole weeks before finals, students can finally focus on understanding the newest unit while still having time to review earlier coursework. 

Speaking personally, I was very worn down before the winter break and looked forward to some well deserved R+R. My brain was jam-packed with material when we left school, and the break allowed me to slow down yet still look over old material without feeling overwhelmed with the constant introduction of new material. 

Also, after returning to school after a short hiatus, I’ve realized that I feel much more confident in some classes. Additionally, I feel that teachers have benefitted from the winter break as well;  Allowing teachers time to review, introduce new material and prepare students over a longer period of time decreases their work burden and stress which translates into a calmer learning environment.  

Finals need to stay where they are, after winter break. It is beneficial for both students and teachers. Let’s keep it where they are, unless the break is pushed back a week, I don’t see finals taking place before break being practical.

Finals should be before break, as it allows students and teachers to destress during break and use the two weeks to relax after the end of the semester.

By Romi Riss

All winter break I was followed by the looming presence of the upcoming finals. Whether I was celebrating the holidays with my family, going out with friends, or just relaxing and taking a break, it was there, hiding in the back of my mind. The dread of returning to school and taking finals haunted many students’ winter breaks. Having finals after winter break doesn’t give students more time to prepare or process, it puts pressure on them to study during a time meant for enjoying the holidays and relaxing.

The week before finals was jam-packed–submitting projects, cramming in one more unit test, learning one more chapter. The week coming to an end was a relief, but that feeling didn’t last because I knew the second we got back we had three more weeks filled with late nights of studying and homework. 

Students deserve a break—an actual break—from the stress of school. School can take a toll on a student’s mental and physical health and it is crucial to have time to relax and recuperate before another four months of learning. Celebrating the holidays while finals inch closer can prevent students from truly enjoying themselves. Instead, it gives many students more time to build up anxiety over the tests, as opposed to using the time to become better prepared. 

I found myself feeling guilty whenever I chose to have fun instead of finishing the projects I had due the day we return or studying for my finals. School gives students the time off to, well, take time off from school. Winter break became an extension of school, and I felt pressured to study and do homework. This was my experience, but I know many other students, especially those in advanced courses, felt similarly. 

If finals were moved to be before break, there is a concern that teachers will have to cram in more information in a shorter period of time and the length of the semesters will be uneven. Los Angeles Unified School District contains 184 high schools, all of which follow the same school year calendar, which places finals before the winter break. RBUSD splits the year fairly evenly–91 days in first semester and 89 days in second semester, but it’s not a necessity to have perfectly balanced semesters, as LAUSD proves with its 80 days in the first semester and 100 in the second.

With this schedule, our teachers wouldn’t have to cram 90 days worth of information into 80, they would adjust the work and move a unit or two to the second semester. The difference in semester length isn’t drastic, and student’s would still learn the full curricula. In the two weeks leading up to finals week, I have learned new content for the second semester in almost every class anyway, so instead of learning second semester content during the first semester while we cram for finals, we should take finals before break, and learn semester two content in semester two. 

RBUSD should consider adjusting to the LAUSD calendar to give students a  relaxing break without the worry of finals. We should go into the new year ready to take on new work and start fresh.