Six Final Exam Options for the Secondary ELA Classroom

Six Final Exam Options for the Secondary ELA Classroom
With final exam season right around the corner, many teachers are thinking about what they plan to do. While some schools might be a little more relaxed and allow teachers to throw end-of-the-semester parties on the final day of the semester, other schools are a bit more strict and have specific policies as to what teachers can and cannot do in the classroom on the designated final exam days.

Here is a list of different types of academic and rigorous final exam options you can use in your middle school or high school English classroom.

Traditional Exam
The traditional exam is the tried and true final exam. Whether it is a cumulative test or a test on your most recent unit, one option you have for administering your final exam is to give a traditional test. To help save time and make grading easier during the end of the semester, you can opt for a multiple-choice, matching, and true/false test that you can easily and quickly grade with a scantron machine. My 100 question ELA test includes two different ELA tests that are entirely matching and multiple-choice. While there are questions on here relating to Romeo and Juliet and other content-specific areas, it is entirely editable. I’ve already completed the answer key, matching questions, and formatting for you! If you need to give a traditional exam, this one will help save you some time.

Suggestion for Success: I like to emphasize good study skills in my classroom. For that reason, I always allow my students to have one piece of paper that they can use as notes on the test. I will typically give my students a study guide, and I advise them to fill up their piece of paper with as much information as possible. I’m not doing this to make the test easier, nor am I doing this to make things easier for my students. I do this to emphasize and model what studying looks like. Most of the students who take advantage of this opportunity only refer to their notes occasionally. That’s because they know the material already. Through the process of researching and reading their notes, reviewing the study guide, and writing all of the information down on the designated notes paper, my students studied for the test.
Six Final Exam Options for the Secondary ELA Classroom

Socratic Seminar
Another way to administer final exams in your classroom is to hold a Socratic Seminar or a fishbowl discussion on the last day of the semester. I love this option because it allows students the opportunity to practice their listening and speaking skills as they demonstrate their understanding of the materials you taught throughout the semester. At the end of the semester or year, I like to review all of the content my students and I covered with an End of the Year Socratic Seminar Review.

Suggestion for Success: To help ensure that students are prepared for the discussion, I like to provide my students with a copy of all of the questions that I’ll ask during the discussion. I even like to have my students answer the questions on their paper and turn this into me in advance. By doing this, I have a paper record of their work for documentation, and it helps boost my students’ confidence when they begin the discussion.

If your students spend a great deal of time on a particular unit, one way that you can assess their understanding is by turning their final exam into a presentation. Whether students use Google Slides to create a presentation, Adobe Spark to create a video, Piktochart to create an infographic, or Canva to create a design image, students will need to demonstrate their understanding of the topic while presenting the information to the class. I recently had students create persuasive PSA posters (image, appeal, slogan), and they projected the poster in the background as they delivered solo speeches. It was phenomenal!

Suggestion for Success: Share your grading rubric with students before the final presentation day. In fact, it is best to provide the rubric to your when you introduce the project. That way students have a clear idea of your expectations.

Having your students create and present a portfolio is another option you can use for final exams. For the portfolio exam, have students collect and organize their best work from the semester. One thing you can do is have a list of different required assignments. Perhaps you want students to include their best essay from the semester, their best test from the semester, and their best piece of fiction writing from the semester. To help alleviate classroom disturbances on the final exam day, you can have students walk around the room looking through the various portfolios and taking notes on the work. At the end of the session, either discuss what students saw or have them turn in their notes.

Suggestion for Success: If you would like to add some more rigor to this final exam option, have students include a revised essay in their portfolio along with a one-page explanation as to what they revised and why their new draft is stronger.

Essay Response
Although this one one of the tougher options because it requires more grading at the end of the term, a great way to end the semester is to have students write an in-class essay. Prepare several different topics for students to choose from, and have them select one or two of the prompts. While I love the ease and convenience of a multiple-choice test, writing assessments are where I truly see what my students have learned and what they need to improve on. As an alternative to a content-based essay, you could also assign a reflective essay where students discuss what they did well on this semester and what they need to improve on.

Suggestion for Success: Provide students with the essay topics several days in advance, and have them outline the essay and gather the necessary quotes and information for each prompt. In doing so, you provide the students with a chance to brainstorm and review the content from the class.

Independent Reading Book Presentation
Have your students present information about their independent book to class. Encourage the students to really sell the book without giving away the ending. Students can discuss the theme, what movies, TV shows, or songs are similar to the book, and why other students in the classroom should read the book. They can even make a movie trailer for the book and share that with the class. At the end of the final exam session, if there is time, you can have students walk around the room previewing all of the different titles. This is a fun final exam option that promotes reading. Hopefully, before students leave for winter break or summer vacation, they have a few new titles in which they want to read.

Suggestion for Success: Have students also write-up a one-page review or report on the book. By doing so, you have paper documentation for the final exam, and you can also use it to assess writing.

End of Semester Evaluation
One thing I love to do at the end of each term is to provide my students with an evaluation of the class. My SMARTePlans End of the Year Evaluation form is excellent for this. I send out the Google Form link to all of the students, and I have them anonymously complete the survey. One reason why I like to do this in the middle of the year in addition to just the end of the school year is that it allows me to review the responses during the current school year and improve my teaching practices.
Six Final Exam Options for the Secondary ELA Classroom