Students, professors discuss midterm examinations

Midterm season is in full swing on Mayflower Hill. As the middle of the fall semester approaches,  Professors are crafting their exams and students are preparing to demonstrate the knowledge they have garnered since the commencement of classes. 

For professors, this means deciding both what information to include on their midterms how to assess their students’ comprehension of the material. They must also decide how much weight to place upon the exams relative to the final grade. There is no set schedule for midterms, so it is up to professors to decide when they will hold their exams.

Professor Dr. James Libby spoke about his approach to choosing curriculum for his EC133 class, Principles of Microeconomics.

“I defer to the [examples] the publisher O’Sullivan stresses the most and try to hit everything equally, except for introduction chapters,” as Libby said in a recent interview with the Echo. “My considerations include which of the concepts have already been covered by other assignments, for example elasticity was not stressed heavily on the midterm because the students completed an elasticity research paper and presentation.” 

As for the goal of the midterm exam, Dr. Libby says its, “assessing course objectives.”

Professor Ankeney Weitz discussed with the Echo how, for her EA150 course, Foundations in East Asian Studies, the goal of the midterm is to “encourage review” and “not to weed students out.”

“The aim of the midterm exam is for students to find out what was learned, consolidate that information, and relate it together over long spans of time”. 

As for the the structure of the exam, Weitz keeps it simple.

“The essay prompts are broad. The multiple choice questions are more of a formality to ensure knowledge of key terms that will be used for the essay portion,” Weitz said. “I assess the information in different ways to appeal to all types of learning styles.”

Professor Weitz does not weigh exams heavily in the course, instead weighing them equally with class participation.

“Being engaged is equally as significant as the exams.” 

Professor Kim Besio does not believe in using midterms in her CN125 class Elementary Chinese I.

“I find they encourage students to believe they can make it all up in one big blow, and it doesn’t work that way.”

Instead she uses “multiple modalities” to assess the students knowledge. This includes oral assessments, writing projects, and tests at the end of each lesson. She keeps the final weighted the same as the lesson tests in order to further discourage any illusions of making it all up at the end. 

For students midterm season entails hours spent creating flash cards, reviewing text books, and combing through study guides to ready themselves for examination. First years expressed their feelings about experiencing midterms at the College for the first time and discussed their techniques for preparation.

“Its not like high school where there is an exam schedule”, Mathew Savage `23 said. “The tests come in waves causing peaks and troughs where the workload can vary greatly…I liken the experience to that of a baby bird being thrown from the nest, right into the thick of it.”

Annie Eddy `23 expressed similar sentiments about the fluctuating nature of the workload around midterm season. 

“Its stressful, they sneak up on you. One week there’s nothing and the next you have three exams and a project due.”

Eddy also shared some of her study tactics.

“I make study guides and Quizlets, group study sessions are really helpful too. I’ve also found professor office hours to be beneficial.”

Miles Tonkel `23 spoke about the differing values and formats of midterms from class to class.

“The weight of the exams varies a lot from class to class, as well as the format and length,” Tonkel said in an interview with the Echo.

For Tonkel, this means employing different study methods to get ready.

“For Spanish, I review the grammar examples in the textbook and quiz myself on paper. For anthropology, I create a study guide and practice synthesizing different topics.”

Though midterms vary from course to course and the experience of them differs from student to student, there is a recurring theme of increased work load and stress surrounding them. As the College nears the end of midterm season, many may find Tim Starr’s `23 attitude relatable. 

“I’m ready for fall break.”