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Alternative Final Exams for High School Science

alternative final exams

The last few years in the world of education have brought us MANY challenges – one of those challenges is finding ways to AUTHENTICALLY assess students – especially virtually. This especially can be a challenge if you are brainstorming doing some type of alternative final exams with your high school science students.

Why you might be considering using alternative final exams this year

alternative final exams

Well for starters, many of our students haven’t been in a traditional education setting now for over 3 years. Because of this, traditional multiple choice and open response exams might not be something that they are equipped for.

Additionally, if you have been in a constantly changing classroom environment this year (i.e. switching from in-person, to virtual, and back again, etc.) it is safe to say that the year has been chaotic for both you AND your students. A traditional final exam may not be a fair metric of what our students were able to learn in a year of constant change.

I get it though. You are TIRED. This year has been another DOOZY and the idea of coming up with a whole new final exam for all of your preps sounds exhausting. I AM HERE FOR YOU!

If you are looking to just switch up your exams this year but still stick with something more traditional, I have exam packs that include midterms, finals, AND review materials for biology, anatomy, and physical science.

But if you are looking to do alternative final exams this year that are completely different but require little prep on your end, I highly recommend trying an open-ended essay prompt for your final exams.

Why??

  • You can put together a final exam in less than 5 minutes for each class (and make that less than 2 minutes if you use my ideas for prompts for alternative final exams below!)
  • They work just as well if administered in person or virtually
  • They have no true “right answer” making these AUTHENTIC assessments that students can’t look up the answer to and cheat on
  • You can grade quickly with a simple rubric (keep reading to download a sample rubric you can use!)

Need some ideas for prompts for alternative final exams for your students?? Below are a few that I think would be GREAT open-ended prompts. Students could take these a ton of different ways, and I love that the point isn’t to have the “right” answer, but to demonstrate your understanding of what was learned this year AND your ability to make a claim and defend it with evidence and reasoning.

Prompts for Alternative Final Exams

alternative final exams

Prompts for biology:

  • Are decomposers or producers more essential to the food chain? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
  • Which molecule most impacts why you are the way that you are – DNA or proteins? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
  • What is the most important factor for achieving sustainability as a modern society? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
    • Example: Is it decreasing carbon emissions, decreasing use of nonrenewable resources, increasing biodiversity, etc.
  • Make an argument for which unit that we covered is the most essential unit for the entire year of biology content (list choices of units you’ve covered). Defend your claim with at least 3 examples of evidence backed by reasoning.
    • I like doing this because it really makes me consider the order in which I teach the content. I think macromolecules are the foundation to understanding biology and come up in every other unit which is why I teach them first. A student may argue for ecology though, or even evolution! So many ways they could take it.

Prompts for anatomy:

  • Which two body systems do you think are MOST essential for maintaining homeostasis? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
  • Which body system is more in charge for controlling the rest of your body – the nervous system or endocrine system? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
  • Which body system is LEAST essential to life? Defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning to support your claims.
  • Which body system does the BEST job of working in partnership with all of the other body systems, and could be voted MVP (most valuable player) of all the systems we learned about this year? Defend your claim with evidence and detailed reasoning, including an example of how it specifically works alongside every other body system.

Prompts for physical science:

  • Make an argument for whether an understanding of physics or an understanding of chemistry would be more essential to have as a forensic scientist. Defend your claim with at least 3 examples of evidence backed by reasoning.
  • Describe 4* examples of physics (or chemistry) in action in the real world – one from each unit we’ve covered. Clearly describe the physics (or chemistry) you’ve learned in class that explains the real world phenomenon.
    • *This number will vary depending on how many units you have gotten through in the year!
  • Take one investigation* we did this year in class and re-design it in a way that would expand your understanding of the topic and extend into new topics. In your re-design, re-write the experimental design process and procedures, making sure to identify different variables and constants. Finally make an argument for why your version of the investigation is more effective than the original and defend your claim with at least 3 pieces of evidence and detailed reasoning.
    • I would provide a list of labs/investigations you did for them to choose from. Then have them totally design a new investigation that spins off of it! I love that this gets them thinking critically, demonstrating their understanding of experimental design, and really zooming in on one topic that they understand well or that could have been taught better.

Have additional ideas for prompts you think would be helpful to share with other teachers? Send them to me here and I will be happy to share them either by adding them to this blog post, sending them out to my email list, or sharing them on my Instagram.

Grading Alternative Final Exams

alternative final exams

One of the reasons I selfishly love more traditional final exams is how easy they are to grade. So I knew if I were to propose ideas for alternative final exams to you I NEEDED to make it as easy as possible for you to administer them. In order to help you out, I have made a simple grading rubric that can be used for any of the prompts above. I hope this helps make the grading process simpler for you! Simply “make a copy” to save it to your drive and use!

Use this as is or as a reference to build your own rubric (sometimes we just need something to go off of, you know?) Either way, I hope this helps you as you consider utilizing alternative final exams this year!!

If you are looking for ideas for alternative midterm exams, click here!

More Grading and Assessment Posts

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