It’s that time of year once again, when students have to start thinking about midterm exams. No one’s looking forward to it and I can say that I’m honestly not ready to jump back in so soon after break. While I’m very well aware that we have no choice in taking these exams, I thought it might be helpful to analyze why such large exams could possibly be beneficial, both in high school and college.
We have always been told that the only way students will bother retaining information is if they are forced to do so by large exams, such as midterms. To me, it seems like they actually only delay the inevitable. We’re given the same justification for why we all need to be consistently tested, so that we won’t forget what we’ve learned. Can anyone remember the kinds of clear details they memorized for say, their history final in June? Or for that manner, clear details they memorized for their latest history test? If the purpose really was to help us retain information, why does it seem like none if the information is being retained? All anyone wants to do after a test is move on, often leading to forgetting the finer, and even broad details that were just memorized in order to make room for the new information. The same thing happens with midterms only at a later time. We spend time re-learning the material (which was already forgotten) only to let it go from our brains almost immediately after our exams. This strategy that supposedly forces us to retain information has been proven time and time again on the smaller scale of regular assessments and on the larger scale of full exams to be ineffective, so it brings me back to the question of why they exist.
The level of stress that a student experiences during midterms is astronomical. It’s not the kind of stress we’re used to for a normal assessment. Often, it’s heavily implied that the stress we experience is unreasonable and largely created by ourselves. But what I want is for anyone who suggests that to go through what we have to go through, since it’s nowhere near an exaggeration. Student stress is no joke and midterms are the perfect example of how our stress comes from things that don’t matter, beyond getting into a good college, which is practically the justification for everything that causes stress in Millburn.
By the time students reach high school, many understand that grades naturally balance out and even though there is a desire to do well, the effects on the average grade will not be dramatic. Full exams take away that security. It’s a one-shot chance. On that specific day at that specific time in that specific room under uncontrollable surroundings, students are expected to do well with no second chances. Don’t even try to tell me that 10% of the final year-end grade wouldn’t have a huge impact, because it most certainly can. It’s easy to argue that we will need to learn how to deal with this pressure in the “real world,” but to me that sounds like a cop-out from people who have been out of touch with the state of modern education, especially MHS-style education. For the people living this, it is a month filled with underlying stress that starts at 7:45 am on January 2. Every single year. There’s no escaping that stress. It might not always be potent, but it’s always there on top of all of the other assessments and assignments being crammed in before midterms start. Realize how much a student has to balance at this time. In the “real world,” I do believe there will be uncontrollable circumstances, unfavorable to the desired outcome in high-pressure situations. However, at least in those “real-world” situations, the pressure has the potential to pay off. In the life of a student, all of that hard work leads to a percentage that will mean nothing 10 years from now. All of that knowledge crammed into our brains, gone just like that. There’s no meaningful payoff and that’s the point. We’re being put through dangerous levels of mental strain without payoff, making all of our work that much more pointless.