Editors Amelia Foster (left) and Meena Vasquez (right) demonstrate a student studying for exams and a student taking advantage of their free time. (Photo Meena Vasquez, Amelia Foster, Anna Woodward)
Editors Amelia Foster (left) and Meena Vasquez (right) demonstrate a student studying for exams and a student taking advantage of their free time.

Photo Meena Vasquez, Amelia Foster, Anna Woodward

Head to Head: Is canceling midterms a good thing?

December 11, 2020

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the district has canceled semester one midterms. Semester grades are now based on quarter grades, unless the student has a D or F in a class. This action is a relief for some students, but a cause for worry in others. Print Managing Editor Amelia Foster and A&E Editor Meena Vasquez discuss whether exams are actually useful.

Midterms are dreaded, but necessary

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 sighs 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.

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Canceled midterms is a weight lift off our shoulders

I love that midterms are cancelled. It’s just unnecessary stress and work for students to complete.

I believe that exams aren’t a reflection of your work, it’s the two quarter grades.  Exams do not evaluate what you’ve learned over the year, they are simply a memory test designed to see how much you can cram in one night.The assignments that teachers give are a true reflection of what you have learned, not a 50 minute exam. A timed test heightens the student’s anxiety, often causing them to perform poorly.

Heightened anxiety, worry and stress can make students do  worse because of how much pressure exams carry. Even if a student knows every single thing about the subject, they can still bomb the exam because of the pressure. Additionally, neurodivergent students who do not handle tests well and need more time are often left out of the exam process and it is difficult to obtain the needed time. So, I think that the exams being cancelled is a weight lifted off of everyone’s shoulders.

The exam curve is also not dependent on the individual student; instead, it depends on how everyone else is doing. This causes individual students to rely on each other’s performance. If most of the students do poorly, but a couple of students ace the exam, then the curve is little to none. Furthermore, you can boost your quarter grades way easier than an exam grade. Talking to teachers for extra credit and drop cards are easy ways to boost a student’s grades.

Most students forget everything they have learned for the exam right after the exam is over. Especially combined with the fact that exams are usually right before a break, which is even more of a reason for students to forget. This year’s exams were supposed to be after winter break, and let’s be honest—who studies over break?  So, teachers end up re-teaching the first semester worth of learning to the students for the final exam. Having midterms cancelled has little to no effect on review since teachers usually review content again in April and May.

In conclusion, let students truly reflect their work with an average of our grades. One singular exam cannot determine the knowledge we’ve learned throughout half of the year.

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