Midterms aren’t in students’ best interest

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Photo from Youniversity https://stfxblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/learning-strategies-that-can-save-you-weekly-review/student-studying-1/

A stressed student is surrounded by textbooks.

Elena Gibbons, Staff Writer

As a freshman, I’ve had many teachers and older students giving me advice and tips about midterms. But by far, the most common advice I hear is ‘you’ll do fine’ and ‘it’s not actually that big of a deal’. In the words of my Spanish teacher Julie Bostrom, “ignore the hype.”

I’ve heard of upperclassmen taking extreme measures, like deleting all social media for all of January. Another person I was talking to was unable to go outside and enjoy the warm weather this past weekend, due to the need to study.

Despite dedicating hours and hours for studying, many people say midterms aren’t worth all the stress and aren’t actually that important.

This raises the question of why there is any buildup at all if midterms aren’t actually as stressful as they’re made out to be.

The reasoning behind midterm and final exams is that they help measure students’ retention of information and provide feedback on what the students should focus on in the future. Ideally, students would effectively learn all the information when studying for the quiz or test earlier in the year, and only need a light review or brushing up on some information before the midterm or final exam. However, this is not always the case.

Oftentimes, we have so many other things to do, we cram right before the quiz in order to pass and then immediately forget all the information. When it comes time for a midterm or final, we have to relearn all the information from earlier in the school year.

Here at Westford Academy, your midterm and final exams make up 20% of your final grade. This is the equivalent of having a fifth term, which could be a reason why students put so much pressure on these two tests.

Another issue is the amount of time midterms take up. There are four days of testing, plus one day in the middle with a half-day of classes. Additionally, teachers spend several days before the start of midterms just reviewing. With so much content to cover in such a short school year, every day counts.

Although midterm and final exams can be a useful measurement tool, this study by Dr. Robert M. O’Connell at the University of Missouri explains how the tests become less effective if the test impacts a student’s grade.

“Formative assessments work best when students can take risks and make errors without fear of embarrassment and/or penalty. For the instructor to provide useful feedback, it is necessary to understand students’ misconceptions and gaps in knowledge,” the study said.

Midterms simply take up too much time, and they aren’t even useful for their intended purpose. This study also points out that when students knew their midterm wouldn’t count towards their final grade, they were less motivated to take the exam seriously or adequately prepare.

WA has taken several measures to try and help students stress around midterms, like the Challenge Success schedule and not allowing homework or tests several days before midterms begin. However, I believe these aren’t very effective because they do not target the root of the issue, which is midterms themselves.

If they want to have an actual impact on student stress, some aspect of  the midterms must be changed.

One solution is the system that the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (ABRHS) has implemented this year. Instead of midterms, they are called summative assessments. The tests are designed to fit into one 55 minute class period. Each department also decides separately if they want to have a midterm exam.

In my opinion, the biggest difference is that summative assessments are worth much less than WA’s midterms. For summative assessments, they’re worth slightly more than a typical test, compared to being ten percent of the final grade. The overall idea is to reduce student stress.

“I like the […] schedule with no midterms because it’s way less stressful on students so that they can focus on taking care of themselves and leading a balanced lifestyle,” sophomore Cam Fox at AB said.

Overall, Westford Academy’s midterm system does more harm than good and needs to be changed.