Do we need midterms?

Instead of preparing for the winter holidays and enjoying the last few weeks of school before winter break, Carrollwood Day School students are stuck studying for midterms. Midterm exams aren’t worth the stressful days and sleepless nights.
High school students should be getting eight to ten hours of sleep nightly. As the National Sleep Foundation finds, students not only spend less time sleeping, but they also engage in unhealthy sleeping habits such as pulling all-nighters or sleeping in the day-time during midterm week. Many students cram to study for these tests, and as The Washington Post finds, prior knowledge is at a higher risk of being forgotten as a byproduct of cramming. It leads to late nights and early mornings, which typically results in an increase in the usage of stimulants, such as caffeine, which increases anxiety and causes restlessness. In addition, students have a higher exposure to their electronics, many using laptops and iPads to study notes posted online by teachers or complete online assignments. However, the brain interprets the blue light emitted as sunlight, disrupting their circadian rhythms and keeping them awake.

There is also unnecessary stress added; if a student does poorly on the exam, there is nothing left to do. Exam grades are posted after the semester ends, leaving students stuck with their grades and no agency to self-advocate.
As the first semester comes to a close, students are inundated with review packets and crammed study sessions, only a week before the exams to prepare. According to State News, some students refuse to take breaks from studying as they view it as a waste of time. This is unhealthy for obvious reasons. People, especially students, need breaks to stay focused and avoid burnout.

And I’ll say it, because we’re all thinking it – expecting students to retain information from August is unfair. These tests determine a student’s test-taking ability and memorization skills, not their understanding of the material, which is tested throughout the year. Memorization of material taught over four months only for it to be forgotten afterward is pointless. Midterms usually require students to recall content from the start of the school year to lessons from the previous week, all of which has been spaced out and tested in smaller units. Midterms change the previous content pacing, and this change is unfair to students who have become accustomed to the regular pacing of the course. Throughout the semester, students take unit summative and formative assignments to assess progress, and the students who understand the material and study tend to do well on each test. Therefore, taking a cumulative assessment doesn’t tell the teacher any new information. However, having students who aren’t necessarily doing well in a subject take a midterm exam, can show teachers progress and improvement.

While midterms are helping to de-sensitize students to test-taking, especially in preparation for the IB exams in senior year, they are not fully representative of the IB testing environment. The IB exams are held off campus at a completely new environment – a congregation center. Midterms, however, are held in the classroom of the class. IB exams also have multiple proctors and follow specific testing guidelines. Teachers could implement testing in new locations and having multiple proctors during regularly scheduled summative assessments, and transition this method to midterms and finals in higher grade levels. Students can mimic what IB exams feel like through this.
As a student, it seems obvious and almost expected to have negative opinions about midterms. To put it simply: they are ineffective and pointless. They allow no room for real-life application; they make students rememorize material just for it to be forgotten the next day. The stress caused by these tests can have negative impacts on our health, increasing anxiety and agitation. Overall, the negative consequences of midterm exams outweigh the outcome. Midterm exams, especially in lower grade levels, do not help students gain confidence in these subjects.