New format for midterms


Credit: Akshi Khowala

A student studies trigonometry in preparation for their exam. On average students spend about 1-2 hours preparing for individual subject tests. When studying for cumulative exams, students can spend 6+ hours.

Two weeks of caffeine loading and sleep deprivation. This was a reality for many Hackley students during the February midterm weeks. Midterms are an integral part of the curriculum, as they promote long-term retention of content and serve to prepare students for exams they will encounter in college. The format of two continuous weeks of studying for exams in core subjects (except English) extended prior to COVID-19.
The traditional midterm format had been in effect for at least the last 10 years. However, with COVID last year, exams were canceled and members of the Academic Committee (department chairs and school leadership, with input from faculty) had the chance to revisit the format. They acknowledged that there is value in learning how to study for and take cumulative exams and wanted to test out a new format. “[The Academic Committee] wondered about how best to promote long-term, deep student learning; how to minimize negative effects of stress sometimes associated with the exam period; how to keep lost teaching time to a minimum both in courses where exams are given and in those that don’t give exams,” said Mr. Bileca.
One thing to note is that exams are going to be weighted differently this year. In past years, exams have been worth 19% of a student’s year-end grade, however, they will now be worth only 10%.
Regarding the timeline of exams this year, Mr. Bileca explains that for Upper School students, cumulative exams for Math, History, Science, and Modern Languages will take place in two phases. The History and Math exams will take place in the first week of March, whereas the Science and modern language exams will take place in late May. The timing of the May exams brings up the question of how AP exams and English/History papers will be affected by the exam.
As far as AP exams are concerned, the new cumulative exam format will not overlap with the APs. This is because the AP Exams take place during the first two weeks of May, whereas the Hackley exams will take place at the end of May. “The AP science classes will not administer the cumulative Hackley exams, as the students will have taken the AP exams for those courses earlier in May,” said Mr. King. For English and History papers, Mr. Loomis and Dr. Robinson have been working closely with their departments to situate the year-end essays so they don’t conflict or overlap with the Modern Language and Science exams.
“Exam review will take place during the class periods in the relative courses leading up to the exam day,” said Mr. Bileca. In the days between and prior to exams, only minor classes (which assign no homework) and classes giving exams will meet. Homework will only be assigned in the classes that give exams and will consist of exam preparation materials. A “no homework policy” will be in effect the night before the first full review day.
“Less weight on the trimester grade is nice and I like that [exam periods are] split up, as someone who takes 6 majors now and then I think it makes my exam schedule more manageable,” said junior Kirsten Trivell. Senior Daniel Cai said, “I think it takes off some stress for the students but I think it might prepare students for college a little less given that college classes are mostly assessed by exams.”
The administration hopes to try out this new format and take into consideration the students’ responses. They hope that this revised format will lower stress for students while maintaining the aspect of “learning how to study for an exam,” which will be beneficial in the long run.

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