OPINION: Midterm and final exams are unnecessary and unequal

Midterm and final exams pile on stress for students, disrupting their school, work and life balance. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Midterm grading finally closed for USF students Tuesday, according to the Office of the Registrar. After these past few weeks of harrowing exams and essays, it’s time to examine the efficiency and ethicality of midterms.

Finals and midterms are supposed to be indicators of a student’s progress and retention of knowledge in class. However, giving these exams such a heavy impact on grades with little time in between make them an unnecessary source of stress.

“A week before a midterm or final exam should be blocked out for special tactical review,” Robert Hatch, UF history professor, said in his study guide for college students.

Up to 20 hours should be spent strictly devoted to midterms that week, according to Hatch. While committing that amount of time to studying seems like an ideal way to receive good grades, expecting college students to devote their schedule to studying is unrealistic and imperceptive of how the real world works. 

As of 2022, 70% of college students have a job, according to Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. To manage school and a job can be a difficult task, especially for lower-income students who must work long hours each week.

About 50% of low income college students working 15 hours or more per week have a C or lower in their classes, according to the same source.

Having a week where all classes have exams that are worth a large chunk of the final grade makes it infeasible to balance work, school and mental health. To those students who need to work long hours to survive, it is especially unfair. They shouldn’t have to choose between doing well on exams or paying rent.

Along with its strain on the study, work and life balance, midterms and final exams take a large toll on mental health. They prove to be the top source of stress for 31% of students in the U.S., according to research gathered by PEW Social Trends.

Some may argue that this stress is a teaching tool that will help you succeed in the “real world.”

“The amount of stress you can tolerate while remaining efficient is directly correlated to the level of success you will enjoy” is a popular quote from internet personality and former kickboxer Andrew Tate

However, the truth is that midterms and finals are not very applicable to real world success.

“The end-of-semester exams require too much effort for absolutely no reward. They don’t set you up for the real world, and you forget all the information you spend weeks cramming for anyway,” Phil Hedayatnia, a researcher at Rice University, said. 

In a career, one is expected to have a deep understanding about their speciality as opposed to temporary knowledge to pass an exam.

Instead of prioritizing memorization skills needed for an exam, greater emphasis must be placed on overall academic performance. Putting more weight in a student’s performance throughout the semester is what will build skills that actually apply to life after graduation.

Midterms and finals should also be spread throughout the semester for different classes, as opposed to piling all of them on in a week or two, which creates unnecessary pressure to cram information and disrupts a student’s work, school and life balance. 

At USF, the tutoring hub website has charts to map out better time management and strategies for more effective studying. While the university may provide helpful resources, no amount of time management tips and studying strategies can dismantle the influx of stress that comes with midterm and final exams. 

Until the power of these exams are lessened, students will continue to live under the constant stress they hold over them.