Finals Shock

By Vy Nguyen 

Okay. I was not an American teenager, therefore not an American middle schooler. However, this seemingly shocking and tragic fact inspired me to write this piece more than ever.

Just so you know, the education structure in Vietnam is the same as American schools in the 70’s. This means that elementary school is from grade 1 to grade 5, middle school follows up until grade 8 and high school continues until grade 12. Then you have colleges, universities, grad schools and all the norms, which do not really differ much from the American equivalents.

(This also means I haven’t graduated middle school yet.)

When I first came to OES and went through my first finals, I was not as shook as I thought I would be, but still, there were so many differences between finals in my old school and my new school, and it was hilarious to watch myself trying to catch up at first.

1.The number of subjects

The Vietnamese education is pretty degrading on its own, and as a middle schooler, I have 13 subjects to pass through for finals:

  • Maths: Both Geometry and Algebra/ Calculus are tested.
  • Literature: Instead of reading books, we read excerpts from everything. Grammar and language structure is also a very big issue.
  • Language: It is pretty much everything you ask from a language class, except less speaking and more grammar.
  • Biology, Physics, Chemistry: Ah, Science. Like a normal OES science period, except separated into three different classes and lengthier than ever.
  • History: A disclaimer to any hopeful Vietnamese lower schooler out there: you will study the same thing that you learn during 4th grade and 5th grade, a slower and unnecessary elaboration of Vietnamese history.
  • Geography: This class is like Biology to me, which means finals and cramming are the same things, but it is more realistic and easier to understand.
  • Civics Education: How to be an unrealistically nice person 101.
  • Music: It gives me a weird existential crisis. We learn songs that praise the brave people in the war and unrealistic happiness. Sometimes we study about composers and music theory, but the class feels like the adults decide to throw in a miscellaneous of music-related stuff and demand us to sing them out loud.
  • Computer Science: When you study the mechanism of a laptop/ computer or how to use Microsoft Words, Excel and Paint 2003.
  • Technology: It does not sound as cool as it does, this class is basically a subclass of Biology and Mechanics, with the occasional exceptions when we learn how to match clothes and cook.


  1. The length of finals

In other schools, finals last over the course of about 1 or 2 weeks, which is similar to OES, because students take two exams a day. However, in my school, we have the maximum of four exams per week and finals take about a month.

Except for Literature, English, and Maths, which takes 2 hours, other subjects’ finals are 45 minutes in length.


  1. The timing

In Vietnam (or at least at my old school), finals happen in April. This means that when it ends, we would have a national holiday and it would be the time of your life if the last exam that you take goes well. After that, we have 2 weeks of school until summer break, and this additional time means students would have time to do extra work to improve grades or just chill overall.

At OES, as you know, finals ends one day before graduation day. I don’t know what is more stressful, carrying a fully filled ice cube tray for 3 minutes or not going to school and still checking the parents portal for semester grades.


  1. The revision process

Honestly, at OES, students have about 2 weeks when most actually realize that finals are approaching. However, at my school, you prepare for finals in one month. This process is even more nerve-wracking than the finals itself.


  1. How grades affect your GPA

In Vietnam, we have a different way to calculate the GPA. Instead of using A, B, or C to work out our marks, grade is considered on a scale of 10. The average point is solely counted based on the grades that we get from exams, quizzes, and projects. This means finals grade determines around 30% of the semester grade. Play hard, die hard. No biggie.


For example:

Salmon Ella Fisch’s grade:

(Pop) quizzes: 10, 5, 7

Mid-term test or Project: 9, 7

Finals: 8

Average score = average score =quiz + (mid-term test or project)2+finals *3the number of scores

In the example of Salmon Ella Fisch, his/her grade will be: 10+5+7+(9+7)2+8310=7.8


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