The ‘final’ jeopardy

Bayley EnrightThere are two kinds of people in this world: those that like Final Jeopardy, and those that do not. Now, of course that’s a slight generalization, and also I’m not really talking about Final Jeopardy. Well, I am, but I’m talking about more than just the game show.

The thing about Final Jeopardy is that it takes the whole rest of Jeopardy and tosses it in the bin. Final Jeopardy is just one question in a game of a hundred questions, but it is one question that can completely change your fate. You may have done awesome the entire game, but then slip up a little bit on Final Jeopardy and, whoops, you lost. Or you may have done terribly for most of the game but then Final Jeopardy shoots you to the top.

As I finish up yet another semester at CSU, I’ve realized that so many classes function Final Jeopardy style. Here’s what I mean by that: a final exam worth 40 percent of your grade. Here’s the thing. Just like in Jeopardy, you could go all semester doing just great in a class.  You attend class regularly and you always participate. You’ve never had an unexcused absence. You do all the assignments.

You pull relatively good grades. You should totally be set to pass the class without any problems. But then finals season comes around, and you get overwhelmed, have a bit of a slip-up, don’t get your studying in, don’t do too hot on that one exam — just a single class period out of an entire semester’s worth — and suddenly you’ve failed the class. And that one person who never came to class except on exam day is a good test-taker, and despite the mantra that “if you don’t come to class you won’t do well on the exam,” they pass the class and you’re left in the dust.

That, my friends, is Final Jeopardy style.  It takes all your hard work, all your right answers, and crumples it into a little ball with “you lost” written on the side and tosses it in the trash.

This is a problem. If you’re learning Final Jeopardy style, eventually you realize that nothing really matters but Final Jeopardy. I mean, it’s important to score a few points so that you can actually compete in Final Jeopardy, but so much for diligence and commitment to the class if the only thing that matters is one class period at the end. And yeah, we all know it’s designed to test what we’ve been learning the whole semester, but the truth is that a fair number of people don’t even have a chance simply because it’s an exam and, despite the mentality of our society, not everybody’s a great test-taker.

So what’s the solution — eliminate Final Jeopardy?  That seems a bit dramatic. But don’t make the stakes so high. Coming to every class should matter.  Doing those smaller assignments should matter.  It should be about the class. Not about just one test.

Bayley Enright is a senior English major. Her columns appear every other Friday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.