Missing out on Midterms? Thoughts from GRHS Grads

by Norah Findley, Staff Writer

It has been two years since Glen Rock High School did away with holding formal midterm exams each January. Many breathed a sigh of relief at the new change. But others voiced concerns: will students be truly prepared for college without them? To answer this question, we surveyed current college students who graduated from GRHS between 2019 and 2022. 67% of those surveyed agreed that “taking midterms helped prepare them for college exams.” A surveyed student explained, “the way GRHS organized the midterms and finals schedule was somewhat similar to how colleges do so.” Several students noted that midterms “are important to show what you cumulatively know,” and taught them “crucial exam-taking skills” that helped them succeed in college.

Although the majority said they personally benefited from midterms, only 40% of the students surveyed agreed that “high school students should be required to take midterms.” This may seem contradictory, but it makes sense when looked at from the lens of the high school experience. One surveyed student stated they were “rushing to memorize” to prepare for midterms and afterwards, “I would forget all of the information I just stuffed into my brain.” Another noted that “test anxiety can result in a poor grade” that doesn’t reflect their knowledge of the content. Several surveyed students described midterms as “way more than any student can handle” given the over-scheduled lives of most high schoolers. Midterms have benefits, but also downsides. So ultimately, are they necessary?

As it turns out, traditional midterm and final exams are now less common in college than you might think. In fact, only 10% of those surveyed reported that all of their college classes required traditional midterm and final exams. Many noted that “projects, class discussions, and papers are the most common form of evaluating knowledge.” A former student puts it this way: “No one is ever going to be completely prepared for college, and I think there are plenty of other things that helped prepare me for college other than midterms and finals.” GRHS has already implemented skill-based benchmarks in place of midterms to help increase benefits for students when they reach college. Is this the right way to redefine the traditional “midterm” for the future?