A cumulative exam assesses a student’s knowledge of all content covered from the beginning of the semester. The term “cumulative” refers to a steady increase in quantity as a result of successive additions. All of the topics are covered in a cumulative exam because they build on each other.
In education, final exams are usually classified as either cumulative or last-unit exams. By definition, last-unit tests involve less content, but they do not demonstrate what the student has retained over the course of the semester. A satisfactory grade on a cumulative final implies that the student has retained and built on the information taught in class, which is the goal of most courses.