As the end of the school year draws closer, so do the dreaded final exams. For many freshman students, these exams will be the first exam they have ever taken. This is a very stressful time for all students; many believe that those ten hours of testing can dictate their entire future. Additionally, the final exam is a significant portion of one’s final grade in a class and no one wants to attempt something so important for the first time without preparation.
This winter, for the first time, Georgetown Day School (GDS) decided to have minimesters in the place of midterms. Minimester was a week without classes where GDS students split up into groups and went into depth on one particular topic. While this development came as a delight to most of the student body, some members of the freshman class now worry that it took away an opportunity to attempt exams for the first time. “I enjoyed my minimester, but I think it would have been a really good experience to at least understand how midterms are and how we are supposed to study for them,” freshman Maha Paul said.
Regardless of whether freshmen came from the GDS middle school or were new students, the majority of the 9th grade class did not take finals in their middle schools. In the GDS middle school, finals that were originally supposed to be taken by the eighth graders last year were similarly cancelled. This grade has had a string of good luck, somehow avoiding any exams throughout their years at GDS. In other middle schools such as the Congressional School, there are simply no exams. At Green Acres School, only a math final was given. None of these schools provided an experience of what it would be like to have five final exams.
This cancellation of midterms and the resulting lack of experience in exams has led to an increased apprehension among the freshman class. Many are not quite sure what to expect and are worried that they will be unprepared. “I’m nervous because I’ve never taken a final before so I don’t know how to study for one,” Paul said. Studying for an exam is very different from studying for a test. Because exams cover information from the start of the semester, studying requires much more time and a different mindset. As freshman Megna Ratnapuri says, “Only one of my classes has tests where they put in comprehensive things from previous tests.” This makes it increasingly difficult to remember anything from the beginning of the semester and requires a lot more review in preparation for finals. It is much easier to study for a final that has been building from past material throughout the year. Freshman Daniel Goldblatt agrees with this, saying “I’m nervous for the finals in all of my classes, but less so for those that are more cumulative in nature.”
At the end of minimester, when students were asked whether minimester should be done again, there was an overwhelming agreement to keep them. Although Ratnapuri agrees with this, she thinks “We should have it later in the year and also have midterms so we are more well prepared.”
While many agree that having minimester might have lost some much needed experience, others are just as happy to not have had midterms. As Goldblatt says, “I think it would have made me more prepared for finals, but I wouldn’t be very prepared for midterms, so it’s really just an issue of what large test you want to be the first one.”
Underneath the anxiety affecting the freshman class is ultimately the fear of doing something for the first time. Attempting anything for the first time, much less exams, can be intimidating. At the end of the day, there has to be a first time for everything. As freshmen inevitably will have to take exams throughout their academic careers in high school and college, now is a perfect time to start.