Oberlin Blogs

Finals in Four Different Flavors

March 6, 2022

Ricarda Hill ’24

(I realize that this is coming a bit late since we have just started the spring semester, but I still thought it was interesting to compare and I got an extra month to ponder my exam schedule as I like to say. Thank you to everyone who was willing to share their experience and course load!)


Coming into college, I thought I had had enough experience with finals to know the general format and what to expect. After all, I had been taking finals in all of my classes since middle school. However, upon arriving at college, I realized that no two finals are alike. 

In my first semester, I didn’t notice it as much since three of my classes (general chemistry, introductory economics, and calculus) had a final exam, but my first-year seminar culminated in a collaborative presentation and 10-12 page paper about a case study in the realm of biodiversity conservation. In my second semester, I had a final exam in economics and general chemistry and wrote a paper for Revolution, Socialism, and Reform in China (a Chinese politics class) and a short essay for German. 

This semester, I had four different flavors of finals.


Final Exam 

For both Organic Chemistry and History of Greece, I took a two-hour-long exam that was closed-book and notes. Both weighted material from the last half of the semester more than the content we had previously been tested on, but both were semi-cumulative and expected us to have a good understanding of material from throughout the semester. I was definitely the most nervous for these two assessments. Luckily, both occurred before my other non-exam finals, so I was able to spend most of Reading Period studying for the exams. 

Final Project 

For Introduction to Archaeology, my friend Robbin and I collaborated on a poster about the process of returning colonial-era artifacts from German museums to modern-day Nigeria. This was my third deadline, and I had approximately 24 hours to complete it since I had spent most of Reading Period preparing for my exams. I felt very relieved after finishing my exams, so doing the research and putting together the poster honestly felt relaxing in comparison, and our collaborative effort went smoothly since we remained in contact throughout the day. I primarily worked on the couch while watching the Packers lose to the 49ers. 

Short Essay 

For German 203, I wrote a short essay of a few hundred words, which was a nice way to wind down finals season. We could basically choose any topic under the sun, so I chose travel because it’s been a while since I have traveled and because I enjoy thinking about what locations I would like to visit. 

Research Paper

For Organismal Biology, I luckily did not have a final exam! Wow, I seriously didn’t expect to end my semester of biology without having to study my butt off for a scary cumulative exam, but fortunately, we had a research paper instead. Admittedly, I wanted to confirm what the assignments for this class were and what the grading was based off of, so I emailed the professor for the syllabus over the summer. (Pro tip: This has been incredibly helpful for me! I’ve already emailed a few professors for the spring semester and have been able to come up with a balanced schedule.)


Some of my friends were kind enough to share their experiences and they wrote extensively enough that I have decided to make an entirely separate blog post including everyone's thoughts on finals. However, I will spotlight Robbin and Ly here since we worked on projects together. Thanks again for sharing!


In Fall 2021, I had five full classes and five finals; my creative writing class actually scheduled the final short story a few weeks before the actual finals season, so I didn’t have a final in that - but my statistics class had a final exam and a final project so I ended up with five again. I had two exams, one literary analysis based paper and two research based projects. I definitely prefer the latter two to exams but don’t really mind tests too much (there were only exams in my school, never papers, maybe that’s why). 

When choosing my classes, I don’t think about finals that much, but I try to balance out between writing-intensive classes (I’m a creative writing major so I cannot avoid those) and classes without that attribute. During the add/drop period, I’ll make a schedule to see when exams and assignments are happening and if a specific class happens to have exams that always coincide with other classes' assignments I might consider dropping it if it seems like it’ll be too much (but that hasn’t occurred yet).


My finals for the fall semester were mostly in intro classes! I’m a psych major that has already finished my lower division requirements, and I've been trying to finish up some requirements for my statistics minor, as well as start my Latin minor. For my Intro to Computer Science class, I had a big final coding project, and I ended up making a short Choose Your Own Adventure game. For my History of Greece, elementary Latin, and developmental psychology classes, I had final exams.

I actually prefer finals that are exams, rather than big papers or projects. I think re-reading material to study it is easier than putting a lot more creative work and energy into writing a paper or working on a project. Though I will say it’s nice to have a bit of variety when studying for finals, as it can be quite tedious and tiring.

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