Here are my semester finals, which are all a combination of a major work of art and a written response to it:
For Art 1, I would have them make a well-composed drawing on a photocopied sheet of paper with a rectangular section drawn into it (makes it smaller, so more doable in a shorter time, and gives it a "matted" look). Usually the subject matter is one of their own 3-D artworks, such as a clay sculpture, found object sculpture, or a basket. The drawings are graded for composition, contours, values, and other main items we got into heavily. They also have to respond to their artwork and refer to the principles of design, which tests whether they truly know how they are used in a work of art. With a few essay questions and a small drawing, you can grade them very quickly, which is necessary since we sometimes have to turn semester grades in that same day.
Art 2's semester test is a painting project, and they have a theme to express. These are supposed to be matted, with a brief artist's statement. They have to critique their own work and choose someone else's in the class whose work they appreciate.
For the fall semester, Art 3 usually has about a two or three week long art final project, such as a self-portrait, that has an "autobiographical" component to it, such as what their autobiography book jacket would look like, a poster for a movie about their life or a story from their life, a CD cover and liner notes if they wrote about their life, etc., or they could make a surrealistic self-portrait. (One of our regular previous assignments is a careful self-portrait using a mirror.)
In the spring, for Art 3, their final is a series of related works, their own choice of topic, that they spend about 4 weeks on. A typed or nicely lettered artist's statement accompanies the series, so they are getting some "writing across the curriculum". I also have them respond to their work with a few essay questions, such as what specific decisions did you make about composition that made an improvement in your work? What helped you get motivated? I make them tell me an artist whose work relates in some way to theirs. Blah blah blah. Only about 3 or 4 carefully chosen questions and I either enhance their grade for thoughtful answers or drop it a bit if they give shallow or sloppy answers.
Next year, I intend to require them to mat and display their series somewhere besides the art room, including the hall displays if I can get some! Wouldn't that be cool!
Art 4 puts together a portfolio, which includes a series and an artist's statement, and they present them to me at a scheduled time as though they are a prospective student or employee. A rubric tells me what to give them, we discuss it briefly, and usually I can average their grade up right then and there, and they leave knowing their semester grade.
Art 4 is also supposed to make arrangements to hang their work up in a public place, but this was the first year for that, and it became clear they needed more specific information on it--some of them were just propped up with no thought to the overall aesthetic results. I would like to have them put their work on our school's web page -- a goal for next year. Perhaps they could do that instead of present the portfolio to me.
Sorry so long, hope it was helpful in some way. Karla in Arkansas