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What do grades really measure?

A reminder to keep it real this finals season

Exams can be stressful, but they shouldn’t be life-altering

It’s finals season, brethren. This is a weary journey we all must brave together and when we make it to the other side, we’re usually exhausted enough to appreciate those few short weeks of break we have.

Finals are stressful for several reasons, including the late nights, group projects, essays and cumulative exams. The source of all this stress usually boils down to the final grade. 

It’s easy in all the stress and sleep deprivation to confuse what grades really mean. When you spent hours studying only to fail your final while your friend strolled in without any preparation and aced it, it’s easy to start feeling like you’re the human equivalent of a used garbage bag.

The most important thing to remember these next two weeks is that grades really don’t represent anyone as a person. Whether you have a four-point grade point average or a two, there are things that make you worthwhile that have nothing to do with your performance in a chemistry course.

With any exam or test, your final grades do not usually measure how competent you are in a subject. Oftentimes, your grade simply measures how good you are at taking tests. When students who spend five minutes studying are able to outperform those who studying for five days, it’s not because the first student is a genius. 

Students with great test-taking skills or writing skills can breeze by in classes without really retaining any information or gaining anything from the class. 

At the same time, there are students with passion and integrity who are willing to study for hours who, due to test anxiety or extenuating circumstances, can struggle to perform well with the material they thoroughly understand.

Oftentimes, this grade reliant system leads to students taking the easy way out. When students are more concerned about getting an A than they are with learning the information, they’re more inclined to cheat or find the most time-convenient method to get through their work.

If grades weren’t the priority but learning was, not only would we be better educated but less likely to participate in corner-cutting behavior.

The only other thing besides testing competency that grades reveal is how well you are at filling a professor’s standards. When professors build exams they highlight the information they think is the most relevant.

While it’s tempting to think of professors as all-knowing beings, they often see and pick up on things us lowly students aren’t ready to pick up on yet. When you do poorly in a class, sure, it could because you aren’t putting in the effort to perform well. Then there are other times when your professor just isn’t up to par.

There are classes on campus, especially within the sciences, that are known to be brutal on your grade point average. In these classes and many others, performing poorly usually reflects a more on how good your professor is, not how good you are as a student.

Yes, many times students do poorly in a class and blame it on outside influences when really they didn’t put in any work. However, that’s not really the point I’m getting at. It’s important in these coming weeks to keep things in perspective.

Grades measure your ability to perform well on finals and to meet a professor’s standards, they do not reflect your worth, your abilities or your competency. 

So keep it real this finals season and take it easy on yourself.

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