Exams – Before or After Commencement?

Exams used to be given before Commencement. In 2018, this was changed. This change was questioned greatly among the student body last year.  After experiencing this shift I have found that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the system.

Exams before graduation has a couple of advantages. The first is that it gives the seniors who are graduating more time with their friends before they go on their way. This is important and it gives them more time to be with the people they love because it is safe to say they won’t be able to spend that amount of time with exactly those people ever again. This ability to have seniors take exams can potentially be helpful to their grades. If a senior was teetering between a B and a C they could potentially study hard for the exams and end the year with a B. While this may not be important for colleges, it may be important to the student. Many of my peers and I, however, felt the most helpful part of having exams before graduation was that we were more focused on our studies. When exams are before graduation we go straight from our classes to exams, which maintains a level of focus that is much needed when studying.


There are, however, disadvantages to this system. Often times, seniors would not have exams even if they are around for them. When my sister was a senior at Holderness, I remember studying for my first-ever year-end finals and her heading off to work because she had no commitments during that final week of school. Not all seniors have the luxury of being a day student who can go to work, so they have nothing to do, which could result in them getting in trouble just before they graduate. The other disadvantage is that just as finals could be a grade boost they could also tank someone’s grade. A normally good student in the depth of a senior slide might bomb their final, which would impact their grade that they may have worked hard on all year to maintain.


Exams after graduation brings a whole different set of disadvantages and advantages as well. The first advantage of not having seniors take exams is that they do not have to stay for that extra week to take exams that will probably have no effect on their future. It is also beneficial to graduate the seniors before exams because it reduces the chances of last-minute bad decisions. 


The biggest downside to having exams after graduation is the fact that our current graduation schedule splits students’ focus. I know I experienced this last year when I finished classes, attended Prize Day and Commencement, and was ready to leave, but then I had to stay and do exams. This break in focus made my peers and me less motivated to study for our exams when we saw our friends leaving to start their summer break. This break for graduation also had a negative effect because I didn’t feel like I had as much time to study. With all of the meetings, ceremonies, and other commitments that we had, I didn’t have the time I wanted to thoroughly get ready for all of my exams.


No system is perfect. There are benefits and costs of having exams before or after graduation. However, in terms of the seniors, who are the ones that we are honoring, it works better for them to graduate before exams.