Carrying the weight: stress and pressure of midterm exams overwhelms students

Carrying the weight: stress and pressure of midterm exams overwhelms students

Photo credit: Madi Lucido

By Madi Lucido, Intern

Midterm exams are a summative assessment measuring a students’ knowledge of previous materials and identifying subjects that need further development. The score received makes up 20% of a student’s semester grade. I argue that midterms should not be so heavily weighted because they lack purpose, cause anxiety, and are not an accurate representation of a student’s knowledge.

Test taking, especially when the test has a major impact on a course grade, often causes an increase in anxiety for myself and many other students. Midterm exams can make or break a semester grade, and during the 90 minute test, the stress caused can alter focus levels. The pressure of a test should never reach the extent where physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and nausea are experienced. Results on the midterm can represent the students’ mental state during the test rather than the understanding of materials learned throughout the semester. A grade can easily decrease from an “A” to a “B” or even lower when the midterm grade is put in, which takes away from the hard work a student puts into their classes during the semester.

The main purpose of a midterm exam is to evaluate a student’s knowledge of the class material and determine which topics need additional focus. However, if someone receives a grade that reflects a need to spend more time on a certain subject/topic, there is no opportunity to review the material after the test. If an individual is unhappy with their score, the teacher will not rewind the entirety of the class and reteach the subject. Everybody learns at different paces and understands different subjects better than others, which results in variation of grades on certain portions in the exam. While the teacher can clarify a limited amount of courses, they can’t extensively explain them due to the lack of time in the school year. 

Midterm exams have far more negative than positive aspects. Creating a less stressful environment is necessary for students. If the weight was decreased to ten percent of the semester grade, stress levels would decrease, and final grades would truly reflect the work that students did for the entirety of the semester.

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