Midterms: Requirement or Unnecessary?

By Samantha Krevolin

Once December Break is over, students often feel relaxed and refreshed coming into the new year. People are excited to see their friends and follow their New Year’s resolutions. However, this mindset is quickly changed as students are told by their teachers when they come back to school that midterms are rapidly approaching. The real controversy about this subject is the fact that some classes require midterms while others do not. Students have mixed opinions on whether Byram Hills High School should have midterms or not for the reasons of students having midterms on top of weekly workloads, while some of their peers do not have midterms at all.
Many teachers who require midterms give valid reasoning behind having them. For instance, the AP AB Calculus classes had a midterm this year to make sure the students have mastered the concepts of the course from the first half of the year. This midterm allowed students in this course to prepare for the AP Exam in May through their greater understanding of the material. This class is only one example of why a teacher would require a midterm. Most teachers follow similar reasoning in order to support their belief that midterms are an important aspect of the class’s curriculum.
Some students believe that the high school should make a better system that will allow for less stress and less work on top of studying for midterms. Unlike Finals Week, students are given the same amount of work during midterms, if not more, than they are during a regular week of school. This causes high levels of stress in students and less time spent studying. Junior Maggie Walsh experienced this hardship when studying this year. As a well-rounded varsity athlete during the winter season, she found it to be challenging because “it was difficult to balance all of my academics while trying to put an appropriate amount of time into studying for my midterms.”
Additionally, it is important to note that not all classes have midterms, and, because of that, some teachers give the same amount of work as they would during a regular week. For instance, this situation occurred this year in regard to the junior math classes. Students in Precalculus level math, like Maggie Walsh, were given a midterm, but juniors that are in Algebra 2/Trig, such as Ally Ross, were not given a midterm. Ally noticed the stress her fellow juniors experienced and admitted that “even though I did not have a midterm, I think it is unfair that my peers had the same amount of work as me and had to study for this big exam.” Teachers should recognize that not all classes have midterms and make sure other teachers are aware so the workload is decreased, ultimately giving students more time to study. This exam is worth a large portion of one’s grade, which is why it is very valuable for students to feel comfortable and prepared going into the exam.
Furthermore, a solution to the problem of whether or not students should have midterms is if a department makes a decision on whether they support giving midterms or not. For instance, going back to the instance of the math classes, if the math department decides as a whole, regardless of levels of math, to give midterms to their students, the students should accept that. However, if another department decides not to give their students midterms, all of the classes that fall under this category would have to follow this policy. Junior Renner Kwittken supports this method as he believes that “it is unfair for the students to be required such material because if they were in another level of the class, they would not necessarily have to take one.”
Another setback that students have experienced with midterms this year has been the idea that students still have to attend their daily classes during these major exams. At the end of the year when finals come around, students are given the opportunity to stay home studying and only go to school if they have an exam. Midterms are similar to finals in the way that they are usually more important to one’s grade than a normal test or quiz, so why should students be treated so differently for one exam than another? There is also the option of students staying at home if they do not have a midterm, so they can study, and only come in if they have one. Unfortunately, if Byram Hills decides to make the change and not require attendance on those days, it may affect the fulfillment of the 180 day school year.
The main difference that stands out between finals and midterms that also creates even further controversy is the grading system of midterms. For final exams, whether they be regents or department based, the tests as a whole count as a “fifth quarter” grade. This means that it is a total of 20% of the student’s final average, which puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of the exam. In contrast, there is no standard grading system for midterms. Some teachers count these exams more heavily and just add them into the second quarter grading system, while others count them as a grade for the so-called fifth quarter that will be split between this test and the final exam grade. This concept causes further confusion and frustration for students to figure out how important this exam really is and why it should have such an impact on their grade, while other students may not have to take one at all.
However, there are positive aspects to the way Byram has designed their current midterm system. One upside is that not all classes have midterms. Students are often thrilled when this is the case as it is less work for them during the week. Another positive aspect is midterms are often spaced out giving students who have more than one exam more time to study. There are also different formats of midterms depending on the teacher, the class, and the grade level.
Overall, whether or not Byram Hills High School should have midterms is still a very controversial subject. Students will continue to either agree or disagree on this matter, but the only way one can make a difference is by speaking up and expressing their views to their teachers or administration. However, the only way we can prove one method to be effective is by trying systems of administering midterms in the future.