Midterms: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Brooke Harrison, Staff writer

Usually, the week before winter break in the Upper School is a stressful time for everyone. Students are finishing some last-minute studying and trying to meet with teachers, teachers are finalizing tests and meeting with students, and other roles around the school are making sure the week goes smoothly. But this year, everything was different. The traditional midterms were canceled, and instead, it was up to the teacher if they would have a project or a test for that class. Many people were happy about this decision, having some stress be taken off. But, an important question could be if the future could midterms could last in the future?

The week before Thanksgiving break, Head of Upper School Rebecca Zug sent a message to everyone about midterms. The message said, “In a typical year there are midterm assessments for major upper school classes in the week before vacation. This is not a typical year. It makes abundant sense to alter plans, as we did last June for final exams, and create alternative projects or unit tests, rather than cumulative midterms.” As most people recall, last year there were no final exams at the end of the year, and instead, projects or a regular unit test took place. 

When asked if having no midterms made you feel less stressed out, Ava Vebeliunas ‘23 said, “With everything going on recently, I feel that having normal midterms would have just caused nothing but more stress. So yes, it did ease my stress.” It seems that the majority of the Upper School would agree that having no formal tests would ease some stress this year.

Because there were no tests, teachers had the option to give a project or a unit test. For example, an essay for English class could have been given, or just having a Spanish test on the most recent unit would have been fine. It was obviously different than the standard cumulative tests we would normally have. Most people liked what the teachers decided to do for each subject. When asked if they liked what the teachers did this year, Greer Marvel ‘23 said, “I did like what some teachers did. Although, I would have preferred it if there were fewer tests and more projects. One teacher had a cumulative quiz, even though that was not really advised.” From a teacher’s perspective, chemistry teacher and college guidance counselor Rose Gnade said, “A unit test was appropriate given the amount of time we had allocated for the test. I could have done it longer yet over several days, but it didn’t seem like the best use of the time.” Overall, it seems like people were satisfied and happy with the choices that the teachers made this year. 

It seemed that many students were happy with the decision to not have midterms. With the school year being very different this year, it would have been difficult for everyone to have normal midterms. Marvel ‘23 said, “I felt good about traditional midterms not happening this year because it was hard to focus during zoom classes for me and I knew I would forget things.”

Having a major test or assignment can put a lot of pressure on students, and having to study for five major tests in a week at the same time is very stressful. Of course, not having to do it this year took some stress off. It brings up the idea if having normal midterms are even necessary. Vebeliunas ‘23 said, “I do not think we should go back to normal midterms. Yes, it was a good way to see how much we have learned through the year, but for most students, these major tests only brought more stress, and having multiple tests a day just gives you a headache.” While seeing how much we learn as students are important, showing them in major tests isn’t the most ideal. Greer Marvel ‘23 said, “I feel that we should continue having formal midterms next year because they will set us up better for finals.” Rose Gnade said something similar to that. “I think we should give faculty the flexibility to decide the best way to assess their students’ learning. This may mean a midterm, a larger project, or something else entirely. Again, I like having the data that a midterm can provide to assess what knowledge was retained. I try not to have the test be worth too much, so it does not dramatically impact a student’s grade. I also find the experience of taking the midterm to be useful for preparing students for other exams like SATs, APs, IBs, and finals.

Overall, it seems like students were happy with not having traditional midterms this year. Midterms and having formal testing is different for everyone and is a stressful time for everyone. Some people are good test-takers, while some students see tests as a way to show how much you know, or how well you can remember something.  Only time will tell if we will continue having midterms before winter break.