Fuellenbach: Midterms have hidden value

Fuellenbach argues that midterms are necessary, but that they could be more bearable.

Last Monday, Oct. 15, I went to a friend’s birthday dinner. Doesn’t sound so unusual? Probably even so trivial that I shouldn’t use it as the first sentence of my article. Well, the day after I had a paper due and a midterm. There are more exams coming up. I should have studied that night, just like all the other nights before.

This frustrated me because it felt as if I hadn’t been doing anything but looking at my computer screen and reading and typing words until I no longer knew what they meant. I decided to go to the birthday dinner and felt guilty because of it, like I believed that I’m not using the opportunities I’m being given right now. Then I came to the conclusion that, in fact, I am very lucky that there are midterms.

Now, don’t think that I’ve already studied so much that I can no longer think clearly. It’s true, midterms have many benefits. Right now, they are just veiled by the fact that everyone hates studying for them.

Think about it like this: The reason why you are, supposedly, going to class is because you want to learn something. Not just anything, mind you, but something that you will be able to remember and use past the end of the semester. Everyone has had a class where nothing happened throughout the whole semester and then, out of the blue, the final exam had to be taken. I’m sure you now don’t remember as much from this class as from classes where your knowledge was constantly challenged, questioned and repeated.

You might say that you’d still learn constantly and make the knowledge stick if there were no midterms, that you would even learn more if you didn’t have to stress out about exams halfway through the semester. But are you being honest with yourself?

That’s not to say that frustration isn’t legitimate. Students feel tired about midterms for a reason. It is often not helpful or doesn’t show long-term results to study within such a short time-frame.

But if you pace yourself, they can prompt you to keep focused while taking some pressure off during the last weeks of the semester. Otherwise, one exam could end up deciding the vast majority of your final grade.

No one, myself included, likes the actual “studying for the midterm” part. That’s probably why I love occupying myself with going to my friend’s birthday dinner. But I’m also certain that this is the best choice if I want to make my knowledge stick and my grades independent from the last 90 minutes of class. If we combined studying and having fun successfully, midterms could become a great opportunity.

 Kim Fuellenbach can be reached at kim.fuellenbach@temple.edu.

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