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Are High School Midterms Really Necessary?

By: Gabriella Nobou

While midterms serve as a mid-year check for understanding of course material and preparation for larger exams in college, it can be debated whether or not they are a necessary assessment of knowledge and an effective means to prepare students for higher education. With this year marking the return to midterm exams after two years, many upperclassmen such as myself may find themselves lacking crucial studying habits for back to back high-stakes exams like midterms. With this, there is an inevitable stress associated with test taking that affects many students, as midterms can be indicative of what grade students will finalize semester one with. 


Although midterm exams are administered with the intent to prepare students for a future of test-taking beyond high school, midterms arguably provide more unnecessary stress than preparation. In college most courses do not stress homework as largely as in high school, with midterms determining 50% of a student’s grade, and finals making up the other half. College students are thus able to better manage their time, and develop quality studying habits. In highschool however, students are assigned review packets to complete for homework as a form of “studying”, and in some classes, students are expected to complete end of the semester projects in replacement of midterms. Juggling all of this stress can make it harder for high school students to find time to study.


 Additionally, it can be questioned why such a vast amount of material must be crammed into one large exam to determine an understanding of class material. In some classes, such as my chemistry class, weekly quizzes are already implemented to ensure that students have grasped the material learned week by week. If a student is able to maintain a high enough passing grade throughout the semester, this should indicate that the class material is being understood. Students such as myself, who have test taking anxiety, may succeed in class, but not perform as well on the exam due to the distress that accompanies high-stakes test taking. Due to the rushed feel of midterm exams in the midst of other class assignments, projects, quizzes, and tests, students may be prone to cram-study information before going into the exam. However cramming can make students more prone to forget information while taking the exam. Thus, a student's performance on the exam may not accurately demonstrate the student’s comprehension of the subject matter when they have time to understand it. It can be argued that in this instance, students should just start studying earlier, however, in between homework, studying for quizzes, and other student obligations like clubs, sports, and jobs, it can be difficult to make this time during the week. 


Midterm exams are especially stressful for juniors with several other high stakes exams to worry about this year such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), SAT, AP exams and finals. Even though midterms do assess the extent to which students have grasped course content thus far, beyond that, no real purpose is fulfilled in administering midterm exams, as they only add onto stress students already endure. This test taking becomes redundant among the tests students must already take in certain classes, which cover several units at a time. 


After considering the psychological effects that midterms can have on students, the redundancy of test taking in high school, and the difference between high school and college midterms, it can be questioned: what are midterms really preparing us for? Why should students endure unneeded stress along with that which they are already bearing?

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