Pro: Winter break meant for relaxation, not cramming

Teenagers are forgetful, but it is not their fault. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the brain of an adolescent is expanding so rapidly that it is inefficient at remembering things.

Irvine High School (IHS) has traditionally held final exams after winter break, however this year, it will be held before break from Dec. 15 to 17. Exams should be held before winter break because it will provide students an adequate down period and time to make up missed exams before the next semester.

Instead of adding stress to students’ and staff’s winter break, exams should be held after, especially since students will forget most concepts by the time exams come around anyway. The forgetting curve, theorized by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, discovered that memory retention is lost over time, and that 75 percent of information is forgotten after six days. Considering students have a two week period where information is not being reinforced, students will not be prepared for finals since they will have forgotten course material. What is the point of having looming exams during winter break when students are going to be tested on forgotten material anyway? Winter break should remain the chance for students to relax from school and enjoy time with friends and family. It should be used to catch up on much needed rest and should not be used for studying, since that is counterintuitive to its purpose.

Students will also have the opportunity to make up exams and review material before starting the spring semesters if finals are held before winter break. Having the two weeks after the break before the start of the next semester allows students time to study and make up exams they might have missed the week before. Even when not used for exams, the two weeks can be utilized in other ways, like a review period before the next semester—one that is not cramming for an exam, but to foreshadow content in the next semester or review content that the class collectively missed. This remediation, or reteaching, allows students to go into the new semester confident in the material and ready to learn more. The two week period also gives staff time to grade and input grades on non-break days, when they too are supposed to rest. Having finals before break is beneficial to both students and staff, and therefore this schedule should continue to be implemented.

Some might argue that having exams after the break would allow more time to review curriculum, however it fails to recognize that cramming information and then starting a new semester with a five-day weekend will lead to burnout. Most colleges and universities in the United States, like the California State University system and prominent universities like Yale or Rice, have exams before winter break to provide a period for students to recover. However, since IHS held finals after, it only provided a short break of five days before learning new information, which can cause fatigue and burnout due to the fast pace of teaching without rest. David Ballard of the American Psychological Association defines job-related burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” In addition, Shepell·fgi says that burnout can cause lower productivity and quality of work, disorganization, wasted time and poor health. With non-stop studying and grading without an adequate break, students and staff are bound to experience burnout before the spring semester starts, so how can we expect their best performance for another five months? Having exams before winter break provides a two week long recovery period that allows students and staff to mentally and physically prepare for the next semester, and should therefore remain in future years.

Thus, finals should be held before winter break as it allows students to be tested on information that they have retained better and provides them adequate time to rest and enjoy themselves. Schools should not expect students to constantly work, especially during a period of time intended for quality time with loved ones. After all, students and teachers deserve it.


I prefer having finals before a break so that students can actually take a break over winter break instead of stressing out.”

Luna Bai, science teacher




“I think that finals should be before winter break since you would be able to perform better on the tests because you aren’t forgetting any material you learned in class. Also, students won’t have to stress over break because of finals. Winter break is the time to relax and hang out with your family, so having finals before break would be more beneficial and less stressful for the students.”

Kaylee Oh, freshman


Should finals be held before or after winter break?

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