Midterms are over; Should they Return?
By: Bryn Huber & Kathryn Torla
Midterms, the dreaded ending to the first semester, finished up this past January. This large exam is said to give students the opportunity to show their knowledge gained over the previous semester, yet the only thing most seem to get out of the testing period is stress and anxiety. This article discusses the value of midterms, calls into question whether their intended purpose outweighs the hardships students encounter, and offers possible solutions to the midterm stress dilemma.
Impact on Students
According to Adam Dobre from the Good Study Skill, midterms are issued "to evaluate students’ progress in a course. A midterm exam identifies areas that need improvement, and the results can be used to shape the rest of the course material. Midterms provide feedback to both students and teachers about what has been learned and what still needs to be learned" (Dobre, 2022). Hence, midterms are a tool for the district to track student progress and make adjustments in education.
Though this idea is seemingly intended to benefit students' learning experiences, this is not the case. This notion is supported by Sabrina Wollfson, an opinion editor for Tower Mastery, who argues high-stakes testing harms students' health and learning. "Metacognition is impacted in a negative way because they aren’t given the opportunity to fix their mistakes and learn from them... Education often emphasizes the importance of learning from our mistakes, but in reality, final exams only teach students to avoid such mistakes at all costs" (Wolfson, 2021). If students cannot reflect on their work, how are they supposed to grow and learn from their mistakes?
Additionally, education systems force students to hold value in letter grades, and high stakes testing can plummet if a student fails. This not only negatively impacts their grade but also their self-esteem. Moreover, the aforementioned author also argues that cramming for tests is not beneficial to students holding onto the material of the exam: "Two weeks went by, and the students had forgotten more than 90% of the information" (Wolfson, 2021). This begs the question: If students do not mentally or academically benefit from midterms, why do they hold so much value in our education system?
The likelihood of midterm exams being pushed aside is slim, therefore it is important to exercise the idea of alternative solutions to battling student struggles with midterms.
One alternative is grading days. A weekday, normally right after midterms, is used strictly for grading. Where students, after a long week of tests, receive a well-deserved day off to relax and prepare themselves for the next semester to come, and where teachers, after a long time of preparation, get to take the day to grade these past week tests. This extra day of break is utilized by high schools across the country (including our state). The effectiveness of this break is represented by the students' time to rest and the teachers' day to step back and not have to cram all of this grading into the week during tests. A break is good for all; it gives time to de-stress and focus on the next.
Another change school systems can make to lessen midterm stress could be to simply weigh midterms less. Students study for hours with tests that can make or break their semester grade, which took the whole semester until midterms to achieve. This two-hour test can determine if a student receives an A or B on a test with 18 weeks of material. Now, teachers may have their students' best interests in mind, with the repetition and need to study for midterms and finals, it may increase the amount of material a student takes in the course, which is a good thing. But putting all that material in one test is more of a memory tester, which is not beneficial for students. Suggesting the idea of having this test but weighing it less can keep the idea of having to study and review material, but can simultaneously take away the stress factor for students who may fear their grade plummeting after a midterm.
Test Taking Settings
Now, with midterms done and in the rearview, the end of the year is coming up. What do you think about the midterm dilemma? Would you want to see them return, or is this a final good-bye?
(1) Berkeley Graduate Division
(3) Mentally healthy struggles