A final examination, annual, exam, final interview, or simply final, is a test given to students at the end of a course of study or training. Although the term can be used in the context of physical training, it most often occurs in the academic world. Most high schools, colleges, and universities run final exams at the end of a particular academic term, typically a quarter or semester, or more traditionally at the end of a complete degree course.
Isolated purpose and common practice
The purpose of the test is to make a final review of the topics covered and assessment of each student's knowledge of the subject. A final is technically just a greater form of a "unit test". They have the same purpose, finals are simply larger. Not all courses or curricula culminate in a final exam; instructors may assign a term paper or final project in some courses. The weighting of the final exam also varies. It may be the largest—or only—factor in the student's course grade; in other cases, it may carry the same weight as a midterm exam, or the student may be exempted. Not all finals need be cumulative, however, as some simply cover the material presented since the last exam. For example, a microbiology course might only cover fungi and parasites on the final exam if this were the policy of the professor, and all other subjects presented in the course would then not be tested on the final exam.
In the UK, most universities hold a single set of "Finals" at the end of the entire degree course. In Australia, the exam period varies, with high schools commonly assigning one or two weeks for final exams, but the university period—sometimes called "exam week" or just "exams"—may stretch to a maximum of three weeks.
Practice varies widely in the United States; "finals" or the "finals period" at the university level constitutes two or three weeks after the end of the academic term, but sometimes exams are administered in the last week of instruction. Some institutions designate a "study week" or "reading period" between the end of instruction and the beginning of finals, during which no examinations may be administered. Students at many institutions know the week before finals as "dead week." Most final exams incorporate the reading material that has been assigned throughout the term.
Though common in French tertiary institutions, final exams are not often assigned in French high schools. However, French high school students hoping to continue their studies at university level will sit a national exam, known as the Baccalauréat.
In some countries and locales that hold standardised exams, it is customary for schools to administer mock examinations, with formats modelling the real exam. Students from different schools are often seen exchanging mock papers as a means of test preparation.
A take-home final is an examination at the end of an academic term that is usually too long or complex to be completed in a single session as an in-class final. There is usually a deadline for completion, such as within one or two weeks of the end of the semester. A take-home final differs from a final paper, often involving research, extended texts and display of data. Most take home finals are in advanced courses such as computer science and marine biology.
In some cases, schools will run on a modified schedule for final exams to allow students more time to do their exams. However, this is not necessarily the case for every institution.