Attention, all RHS students. Midterms are here.
While final exams have always been a part of the school year (save for the ones spent in lockdown during the Covid pandemic), RHS reportedly has not had midterms for 7 years – until now, making this new addition to the school curriculum a big change for both teachers and students.
As high school students, most of our knee-jerk reactions to the prospect of another big test is an absolute, resolute, no. All that means is additional stress – because for many students, there’s an underlying fear that any test has the potential to make or break your entire GPA – no matter how much of an effect it is realistically going to have.
But that’s just the thing – it is an extra test that has the potential to drastically change your grade. The idea of a looming final at the end of the school year can feel pressuring for many students, as it almost feels like one single exam at the end of a year that has the power to have all the hard work either pay off – or go down the drain. This kind of psychological strain can affect students in a number of negative ways, from decreasing motivation to increasing stress about grades – which are high enough as it is.
With a midterm exam in the middle of the year, however, it lessens the burden by essentially serving as a second chance. Worst case scenario, a student does poorly on their midterm – but they can take comfort in knowing they still have finals at the end of the year to use as a way to keep their grade from completely dropping, in addition to continuous homework assignments, quizzes, and smaller tests. While the actual weight of a midterm grade in comparison to other assignments and tests may vary, this mentality has a very high chance of relieving psychological stress during exam seasons. This makes a huge amount of difference as sometimes, stress can be the one thing blocking someone from doing their best.
Additionally, only having final exams is impractical, as it is unrealistic to test students on a year’s worth of learning and expect for a majority of students to do well. Not only is it extremely difficult to study for such an exam, it is also not an effective way to assess the students’ understanding of the material, as a long period of time would have passed since it was taught. Rather, having a midterm at the end of a semester and a final exam at the end of the year splits the material so that the first exam would focus on everything taught up to that point, and allows the second exam to put more emphasis on everything learned in the second semester. After all, exams are not only an assessment of understanding, but also a reinforcement of teaching. Ultimately, students would have a more substantial learning experience with two exams in the year, because the distribution of material allows for a more concentrated study, rather than a wide scatter of subjects in one, overwhelming test.
The unfortunate truth is that assessments as a whole are never an anticipated or enjoyable experience. They always come with stress, can be extremely discouraging, and sometimes there is nothing more anxiety-inducing than studying for a big test. However, the new midterms could be the fix, regardless of how counterintuitive it may be. Because if it means opening the door for a more successful year of learning and less mental and emotional exhaustion, midterm exams might not just be all that bad. In fact, maybe it’s exactly what the students need.
Graphic: Sunny Rhew