Assessing the Absence of Midterms: Is it a Worthwhile Trade off?


Art created by Owen Whelan.

I was the first one to clap in the auditorium when it was announced to us that midterms were being canceled permanently.

Even though I had only gone through one midterm cycle during my time in high school, the benefits instantly popped into my head: more time to focus on the curriculum, less strenuous studying and cramming, and one less obligation to think about. At the same time, a mile marker of the school year — one that helped revitalize a sense of dedication to the courses I was in — was taken away. 

Confidence in understanding a course is hard to gauge accurately as the year goes on. Once a month’s content has passed, holding onto its details (and in some cases main ideas) can be difficult without a repass. Midterms forced this repass, which served as a wake-up call for your progress throughout the course: how far you may have come, and what you need to improve on next semester.

As a school that pushes itself to prepare students for the demands of 21st-century jobs, Nanuet’s step to remove midterms is one of many that will hopefully achieve that vision.

— Owen Whelan

By the end of last school year, I was beginning to realize too little too late that a majority of my study methods were ineffective and needed to be heavily reevaluated. Because midterms were canceled, this realization came before finals, which were more difficult and weighted more on my final grades. If we were to have had a midterm, I could’ve taken the time to reevaluate this study method earlier in the year, and I would have ended up with a more streamlined and effective way to study for  finals.

At the same time, many of my classes already felt accelerated in order to “make it in time” for finals. AP United States History, a year-long course, asks teachers to cover over 600 years of in-depth content in what never seems to be enough time. A week-long disruption of the schedule would only exacerbate the time/content conflicts in classes such as this. 

Even if my final study methods weren’t 100% efficient, is removing midterms a tradeoff we need in order to have the material to study in the first place? 

College’s answer: Absolutely. Nationwide, universities have already begun dropping midterms in favor of preserving class time or giving students time off. When reevaluating its curriculum as a whole, Stanford University dropped midterms in 2021 with no immediate intention to return them. Instead, the accredited school was looking to evaluate students on a more regular testing basis. Not only does this serve to crack down on the tension that the dreaded “midterm season” serves to create, it allows for longer, more in-depth evaluation that sees a student’s ups and downs rather than one single point in their academic career.

Finals are still a point of tension for many, however, they serve a different purpose than midterms. While midterms interrupt a curriculum, forcing a pause in learning to look over old material, finals allow for a final evaluation of a student. Students are expected to become more consistent, cohesive individuals, which culminates in finals, versus what midterms serve to achieve: evaluate a partial, undeveloped student and disrupt their learning for yet another statistic.

As high schools begin to continue to reflect on how students prepare for college, it’s important to view how students in secondary programs — many of which are evolving past solely university — are tested and evaluated. As a school that pushes itself to prepare students for the demands of 21st-century jobs, Nanuet’s step to remove midterms is one of many that will hopefully achieve that vision.