Midterms are dreaded, but necessary
December 5, 2020
Last week, it was announced that Hillsborough County cancelled midterm exams for students in the county due to the pandemic. I’m sure the news led to many sights of relief, but a lack of midterms isn’t as great as it sounds.
Exams are a reflection of your work. If I’ve spent the semester attending all—or almost all—of my classes while still doing the homework, then I want something concrete to prove how I’ve worked. Yes, grades can act as that, but they’re a summary of individual work, not holistic knowledge.
The exam boosts grades. The midterm exam is only available for those who got Ds and Fs for their first and second quarter grades, but what about those who got Cs? The grading scale was adjusted so that a C and a B will be a B, but no luck for people who got two Cs and usually get an A on the exam. For people who test well but haven’t found the motivation to do work, which is understandable considering that this school year is unprecedented, an A on the exam could have helped boost them to a B.
For people who have Ds and Fs for their first and second quarter grades, exams aren’t cancelled, and those people have the option to take them once we return from winter break. The exams are supposed to boost grades, as they typically do, but exams are hard, and even the most hardworking students rely on the curve. What is the point of only a few people taking them if the curve, the part that helps the most, isn’t the same as it always is? To really help the people who need it, then more people need to take one for the team and take the exam.
The semester is split into two quarters for a reason: it’s long. An end of semester exam acts as a review for people who may have forgotten content from earlier in the year, whether if it’s because dead week provides an opportunity to review in class, or because studying for the exam refreshes the information. Also, on the topic of dead week and exam week, they both help teachers catch up on grading. With no midterms this year, there’s no half-days, and students and staff have to struggle through another week of school.
Despite COVID-19 being why the exams are cancelled in the first place, it’s why they’re especially needed. For a lot of students, it has been harder to learn because of the pandemic, and the studying that exams require can help students actually remember the content. I can’t predict the future, but final exams—especially for AP and IB courses—are unlikely to be cancelled, and the need for this information doesn’t just disappear because mid-terms do.
Not to admit to knowing who JK Rowling is, but I’m aware that I sound like Hermione Granger right now. Regardless, my point about the merits of midterm exams still stands. They’re a useful review, they help raise grades and they provide a sense of normalcy. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it isn’t needed.