Students express mixed reactions to return of in-person finals


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

A student writes chemistry problems.

By Trevor Weinstock, For The Pitt News

Finals season is no one’s favorite time of year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed students to see other options for final exams. Many still have the option of in-person or online finals next week.

Students have mixed opinions about these different finals formats. Those who prefer in-person finals feel it forces them to have a better grasp on the material, whereas others who prefer virtual finals said they like being able to take their exams in a more comfortable space.

Satvik Garg, a sophomore molecular biology major, said he tends to be more mentally prepared and “spatially aware” when taking finals at home.

“I prefer remote finals because honestly, it’s better mentally, because I believe that the desk where you study at is the desk where you should take your test at. I just feel [more] spatially aware and mentally,” Garg said.

Besides the comfort that at-home, virtual exams allow, students said there were other benefits to taking online exams. Rachel Newton, a sophomore health services major, said taking her finals at home allows her to ignore any distractions.

“I personally like the remote finals only because I need complete silence when I’m doing stuff,” Newton said. “When you have classes where [classmates] can leave right after the exam and you’re still taking the exam, you just hear people getting up into big backpacks, like leaving and slamming doors and all that stuff. It just is really distracting.”

Some professors allow for virtual exams to be open-note, giving students the opportunity to prepare for their finals in less intense ways.

Rana Gulen, a junior economics-statistics major, preferred taking her exams with an open note format because this allows her to not have to memorize formulas and dissertations for her math courses.

“Because my major is really math heavy, getting to have my notes in front of me was super helpful,” Gulen said. “Being able to look at step-by-step examples in which I solved problems was really helpful for me.”

There are many other reasons that students prefer in-person tests. Sean Zubey, a sophomore industrial engineering major, said he was concerned about computer issues that could happen during an online final.

“I typically am a little more nervous about an online final because you never know what’s gonna happen in terms of technology issues,” Zubey said. “There’s nothing else like a paper final. You’re given a piece of paper and it works every time 100% of the time.”

In-person exams that aren’t open-note typically force students to master the information taught to them, rather than just briefly review it. Students said online exams have allowed them to get away with not fully learning the information reviewed in class, but rather quickly type or write up the information that they have gone over in class.

Henry Gifford, a sophomore psychology major, said taking finals in person required him to absorb the information taught during lectures.

“I prefer in person finals because … it forces me to really retain the material and actually move on with it,” Gifford said.

Some Pitt students said the future of test-taking should change. Chris Chow, a senior economics and psychology double major, said tests are not the best way for a teacher to judge their student’s academics.

“There is a lot of material crammed into these tests, and it’s not really the best way to account for how we’ve done over the semester, versus something like a project or something that’s more collaborative that can show the best strengths of other people in the classroom,” Chow said.