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Semester Exams: One Student’s Opinion

Only one semester away from graduating, I have begun to really look forward to the future: college. As I look forward, I also ultimately reflect on my time in high school – specifically what I have learned and most importantly, if it will help me as I continue.
If there is one skill that I have learned and perfected in high school, it is how to study, whether it is for a quiz, a test or even a two-hour exam. I have learned that each of these testing situations requires different methods of studying.
Much like playing a sport, studying increases in efficiency and success only with practice and repetition. Studying is also the basis of success in college, so it is integral that students develop good habits in high school. With the significant decrease of testing in college, as compared to high school, grades in many college classes depend on three or four long, two-hour exams, leaving little room for mediocre effort or studying. The combination of academic pressure and the pre-existing social pressure of integrating into the college atmosphere can thus make the transition from high school a little less seamless than it should be.
When I read that MCPS would be taking away midterm and final exams in a new strategy, effective next school year, I was shocked and disappointed.
Final and midterm exam times are some of the only times when students can learn not only how to prepare for but also how to take the type of long, content-heavy testing they will experience more often in college. The only other tests that are similar in nature, AP exams, will also be negatively impacted with the elimination of midterm exams.
Midterm exams are a valuable opportunity to prepare students for AP tests, as it allows each teacher to set up a testing environment that closely resembles the AP exam for that class. Therefore, when students take the AP test in May, they are more comfortable and perform better.
The final decision to remove these exams was based on two general interests: increasing teaching time and decreasing standardized testing. The latter has gained surging support from students, teachers and parents alike, condemning the explosion in standardized tests that force teachers to “teach to the test.” Between pre-school and 12th grade, American students take around 112 required standardized tests, according to a Council of the Great City Schools study.
While I agree that there needs to be more moderation in testing, I do not believe in eliminating midterm and final exams, which are some of the most beneficial testing opportunities. Maybe we should instead eliminate useless and poorly administered testing, like the PARCC assessment, which is not taken seriously by students and teachers as a valid indicator of student achievement.
If this decision is based on lowering standardized testing, it is fair to point out the hypocrisy in the plan: the new plan does not actually eliminate exams entirely, according to multiple media reports. In fact, rather than two-hour exam blocks, MCPS plans on giving county-developed summative assessments, in the form of unit tests or projects, each quarter – leading to more assessments each semester. It is ultimately the large frequency of short quizzes and tests taken each week that interrupt the educational experience and shorten instructional time way more than
finals exams taken twice a year do.
Column by MoCo Student Opinions Writer Anja Shahu of Walter Johnson High School

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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