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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Midterms are just mid-semester finals, so why does no one care?

Over the past few weeks, students at the UA have been busily preparing, studying,and working on midterms for various classes. Although there is no set week for midterms, the majority of UA classes requires some sort of essay or exam at the midpoint of the semester. These exams are often worth close to or the exact amount as a final exam.

With a typical course load of approximately five classes, or around 15 units, students can expect anywhere from three to seven midterm assignments. Sometimes these are tests covering the first half of content in the class, but other assignments can include group debates, individual presentations or lengthy essays.

One of the most inconvenient aspects of midterms is the way in which they can occur any time within an approximate three-week period. Unlike finals, which have a very concrete beginning and end point, midterms take place whenever the teacher arbitrarily decides he or she has taught the students half of the content for the semester.

The problem with this system is that it leads to unfair overlaps and irregularities between students’ classes. Some students have four or five midterms in one week, while others have one or two midterms per week over the stretch of a few weeks. Compounding on this difficulty is how other professors still assign essays or other tedious assignments during the midterm phase of the semester.

When finals occur during the last week of the semester, the entire school is on the same schedule. Professors assign one all-encompassing task that best suits the content of the class. This can take the form of a longer essay, a cumulative exam, a presentation or a final test that just covers the last portion of content covered in lecture. But regardless of the assignment, students know that the only assignment they are responsible for is the individual final project for each class and nothing else. The Thursday before finals is dead day followed by merely a two-hour period for each class with all remaining time allotted to necessary studying for finals.

The midterms at the UA should resemble a similar system. One week in October should be the designated time frame for midpoint exams, presentations or essays. Maybe the identical two-hour blocks aren’t a necessary element of midterms, but at least under this system every class would be aligned in the placement of their midterms and no other assignments would be given during this week. This arrangement would guarantee that students could use their full energy to focus on midterm exams rather than Homecoming, Halloween, non-midterm assignments from other classes or extensive time commitments from clubs and other extracurriculars. The entire UA community knows not to overload students during finals, and this courtesy should be extended for midterms.

Often professors give equal weight to midterm exams and final exams, which is reasonable considering that these exams typically each cover half of the class content. The only part of this arrangement that doesn’t make sense is how final exams are given special considerations and extreme care by both students and administrators, while midterms are treated as just another weekly assignment.

Departments and major programs should start implementing normalized midterm examination periods in order to improve students’ study habits, create a uniform schedule and reduce the amount of stress among the student body.


Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.


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