Editorial: Weighted midterms hurt student motivation

With midterm exams looming, many students are wondering how their final quarterly grades will be counted.  It turns out that each department as well as teachers within the department has different policies for weighting midterms in their respective courses.

This results in students prioritizing midterm exams according to which ones affect their grade the most and, as a result, basing the adequacy of their preparation and review for midterm exams based on which one will have the most impact on their quarterly grade.

However, midterm exams are standardized for their length and in general their difficulty.  Therefore it is strange that teachers will devalue the necessity for review in their courses by counting the midterm for less than other teachers.

In this way, preparing for an exam in a course also becomes less about learning and reviewing material in the long run than about gaming the system to maximize the amount of effort proportional to the amount of points a student can receive in reward.

The lack of balance in priorities regarding midterm preparation also affects preparation for final exams.  In Advanced Placement courses in which the AP exam is not counted towards the grade, students who were relying on incentives to prepare for their exams based on the amount that their exams would count towards their final grade will suffer.