Is it Time for a New Midterm Approach?

As we near the end of the semester, the shadow of midterm exams looms over the student body. These exams are generally designed to assess a student’s knowledge of the subjects that were taught throughout the semester. To the faculty and administration, midterms mean tracking a student’s progress and the effectiveness of various teaching techniques. However, regardless of their benefits, many still question the effects midterms and finals have on the students?


For students, midterms and finals mean trying our best to cram all the information taught over the past months within ten different subjects into our minds. They also mean that even if you are a model student all year, this one grade may bring down your average, leaving a range of negative feelings such as failure and disappointment.


The system itself is also bad for student's education and their physical and mental health. Many students experience sleep deprivation, the fear of failure, and other unnecessary and unhealthy habits. Despite how hard anyone has worked throughout the year, these exams have a disproportionate influence on students’ grades.


“It is super stressful because I have two midterms each day to study for, which makes it really hard to balance,” said Noah Bensousan (10th).


After consulting with other members of faculty and administration, we came to the understanding that midterms and finals were put in place to hold both students and teachers accountable for the semester's work. While this is understandable, the question still remains: shouldn't we focus on ensuring a substantial education throughout the year, while holding both students and teachers accountable each step of the way, instead of trying to recall and study every piece of information, from every class, over months of school? And shouldn’t we find effective ways to measure how much students have learned, besides for lengthy tests for a week straight?


Midterms are a source of stress and anxiety to much of the student body, especially considering we are currently living through a global pandemic in which we consistently worry about the safety of our friends, family, and selves. This pandemic should put things in perspective and emphasize what is truly important. One of the most significant components of education is grasping concepts in a way that the information can be retained in the long run. However, these exams force students to memorize and overstudy copious amounts of information, only to forget most of it after each exam.


This year’s midterm schedule is also an issue that has caused confusion within the student body. In past years, students would take two tests in the morning, and have the rest of the day to study for other exams. Additionally, the whole school would have been taking their midterm for the same subject.


This year, each student’s final schedule goes according to their grade and the time of day that they take those classes. Students can no longer leave halfway through the day: they attend their classes until they have taken the final for that class. Students have to attend all classes between exams and may not leave school.


Many students expressed that the schedule caused stress and disorientation. Juniors and seniors who have experienced a different schedule said that they had a lot more time to study when they were able to leave halfway through the day. Having to be in the school building for most of the day while you have multiple final exams to study for can cause anxiety, for it severely limits your studying time. For example, if you have a Jewish Law class during the last period, you must stay the whole school day every day until you have completed that exam.


“I didn’t like how the schedule is super unorganized and there’s a lot of confusion and no one knows when their tests are,” said Ella Schwirtz (12th). “It makes me really stressed.”


Another issue with this year’s midterm schedule is that those who have siblings in the high school and middle school are on a completely different schedule than one another, which causes problems with carpooling. In the middle school, the students get half days, so they would either have to wait for their siblings in high school to finish their day or get picked up early.


“Because I have a sibling in both 12th and 6th grade, it’s very difficult to find rides because middle schoolers leave at a different time and so do the 12th graders,” said Riley Spitz (9th). “Our schedules are different, and because of this I am struggling to find rides home.”


Although it is understandable that some subjects must give exams, we believe there are alternative options for midterms and finals week that will be more beneficial to students' education, mental health, and overall well being. Many classes have implemented alternative assessment such as research papers and projects. These allow students to work at their own pace and use creativity, which creates a good environment to fully process information in depth.


Another alternative to the current midterm system in place is to spread the exams over a longer amount of time. The system remains that two exams are scheduled each day for almost a week. This can be very tiring for students and promote “burn out”. Instead, perhaps the exams could be spread over a month. This way, it would be around two exams a week so that students would have more time to study their subject in detail in a less pressured manner. The information learned following the exams in the classes that would have them earlier on can be incorporated in exams next semester, or assessed separately in a more lenient form.


There is no doubt that midterms and final exams are beneficial in tracking classes, students, and teaching methods, however, perhaps it is time for the teachers and administration to ask themselves a question: do these benefits, that can be obtained in different ways such as projects, outweigh the general anxiety, chaos, and sleep deprivation that midterms and finals cause each semester?


By: Kayla Herssein (11th) and Ali Smith (11th)


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