Why having midterm exams this year isn’t fair


Art by Sathvik Manam

Students are having mixed feelings over taking exams after a remote block.

Audrey DeAngelis, Assistant Editor in Chief

Midterm season has never been a particularly easy or stress free time, even when students weren’t studying from their bedrooms. Students shouldn’t be expected to have 10% of their grade depend on an exam which takes place after an unusual quarter with learning obstacles none of them have experienced before now. Times have changed, “school” doesn’t have a definite look anymore, and midterms shouldn’t either.

Students feel reassured to know that the administration has come up with a new format for these exams come January. Lowering the percentage of the semester grade from 20% to 10% was a start. Shortening the clock from two hours to one was another step in the right direction. There is no arguing those facts. But what would make them more practical is if they were 0% of our grade and didn’t take any time. 

Last semester, LHS did not have any traditional final exams. We were supposed to have a final project, but a lot of teachers and students slacked off on that. This semester, it isn’t fair for students sitting at their desks in January to be required to remember what they learned sitting on their beds in December.

As much as staff and students try, communication will be lacking during this remote period. It just won’t be perfect. And that’s okay; we are not in traditional circumstances right now, so we cannot expect traditional communication. Something as simple as being on a Google Meet and needing a question answered isn’t so easy. 

Your teacher may not even see you asking a question because your hand isn’t waving violently in front of their face. And how do you even ask a question on a Meet anyway? Do you raise your actual hand? Or use the “raise hand” feature? Do you ask it in the chat? Or just unmute yourself and interrupt?

In addition to in-class help, it is also more difficult to get hands-on help during a global pandemic. It’s not like you can just stay after school to do a review session. Staying after on a Google Meet just isn’t the same, and students need that human connection to truly be able to learn. These exams would not show the level of understanding of the material that they would if they were under “normal” circumstances. 

Classroom dynamics have changed drastically since the pandemic, but they have changed again with the implementation of fully remote learning. Some class sizes during the hybrid model have been as small as 4 or 5 people, while the other “half” is almost a regular class size at around fifteen to students. Throwing those five people who have gotten used to a more intimate, one-on-one teaching style into a Google Meet with new classmates can change the learning curve immensely. 

Those are just the flaws with the online classroom model when it comes to learning the material, but what happens if we actually have the exams? Sure, the tests will be shorter and cover less content, but that means fewer questions per unit. So if a student thrived in a specific unit, but struggled in another, there will be less opportunity for them to show their strengths. 

A more reasonable placeholder for the exams would be final projects, done the way they were intended the first time. These would be a much less black and white test but instead allow for students to show that they were in fact paying attention and showcase their strengths and learning in a more suitable way. 

Courses such as Honors Creative Writing and Mrs.Juster’s English classes partake in a semester portfolio as their midterms, rather than a standard test. Allowing students to display their works from the year that they have been able to take their time with, instead of a thesis paper they had to rush to fit into an hour. 

We all know that the amount of cheating on assignments has soared since we went remote back in March. But it’s also not like cheating is some sort of new phenomenon, there is also no denying that in many years past, students have passed along exam questions to their friends in later periods to give their grades a little boost. 

There are usually only 8 possible times a student could be taking a specific test. Now there are sixteen. This means more and more students will have the opportunity to give and get test answers, as there are fewer students taking each test at a given time. 

If teachers and the administration are taking measures to limit the amount of cheating in their remote classrooms, wouldn’t they want to attempt to prevent it during their exams, which are worth considerably more than homework? It’s not like students can ask their teachers to make ten or more versions of their tests so that it’s virtually impossible for students to share questions and answers. 

Even if a student didn’t cheat between classes, the chances that the information in their head is actually information they learned and not memorized or got off someone else’s assignment is slim to none. 

If entire classes can’t take their tests at once to keep the integrity of the exam, then they shouldn’t be given at all. If these midterm exams happen, they will pretty much be a fruitless effort. They will not reflect the students’ understanding of the content taught to them. It would be a waste of everyone’s time. 

Most of us just want a bit of normalcy woven back into our lives, but this isn’t the thing to start with. We have all experienced enough stress during these last nine months to last us a lifetime, please just give us this one week to not feel like the world is ending.