Midterms: Student sanity is put to the test as exams mount

It is that time of the year again that students dread—midterm season.  With the halfway point of the year rapidly approaching, it is common for students to experience test anxiety and stress as they prepare for their exams.   Feeling nervous before any test is normal; however, in certain cases exam anxiety can overwhelm students.  Periods of prolonged high stress situations manifest in behavioral symptoms such as mood swings, mental breakdowns, eating disorders, drinking, and illness, as well as causing decrease in productivity and performance.

Students under eustress, the good kind of stress, may feel motivated to study and do what they need to do to prepare.  Unfortunately, during midterms, stress transforms from eustress to distress.

“Too much anxiety is disabling and counterproductive as students will spend hours worrying, instead of actually studying,” said school psychologist Dr. Joan Bester.

“Too much stress can also lead to depression.  There is a concept known as “self-efficacy” in psychology.  Research has demonstrated that people with higher self-efficacy tend to welcome pressures and challenges; while those with lower self-efficacy often dread or back away from it.  So some students might work best under this type of pressure, while it may be crushing or overwhelming for others,” said psychology teacher Mr. Larry Schultz.

Many students use the term “I’m so stressed out” often; however, what many do not realize is that students with high-level anxiety can actually develop disorders.

“The stress and pressure of testing like this can contribute to various anxiety and depressive disorders.  These types of conditions in particular are affected because they feed on fear, self-doubt, stress, and fear of failure,” said Mr. Schultz.

There are many ways to deal with anxiety and stress before midterms such as squeezing a stress ball and using an anxiety spray or  a pillow which contains natural herbs.

“A student should start to prepare well before the date of the exam, so students feel more confident and prepared.  Also, exercising, doing yoga, and getting enough rest can reduce anxiety.  One should eliminate negative statements such as ‘I am going to fail, it is too much, etc.’ and reframe them with more realistic and positive self-take,” said Dr. Bester.

“Students need to realize that they are not alone and many of their peers are experiencing the same stressors.  Students need to take care of themselves above all; get proper sleep, eat well, and exercise.  They need to balance their study habits with things they enjoy so that they do not feel as stressed out,” said guidance counselor Ms. Diana Rafferty.

To reduce stress, the guidance office offers some advice.

“Don’t compare yourself negatively with your peers.  You will only think they are studying more, or are smarter.  Try to tune out that pre and post test chatter by listening to music or getting your mind off the tests,” said Dr. Bester.

Test anxiety is also caused by the intense external and internal pressures placed on students in high performing schools.

“Many students here are expected to excel, and many students expect themselves to excel.  The fear of that not happening can be overwhelming and potentially harmful,” said Mr. Schultz.

Although during this moment, midterms may feel as though they are of the utmost importance, and they will determine your future, students need to keep things in perspective.  Life is about balance and many students have to find that balance.




In previous years, Schreiber reserved a full week of the school year to administer midterms.  This year, however, the schedule has changed to test students from Monday to Thursday and utilize Friday as regular school day.  Controversies over the new schedule and rumors of eventually eliminating midterm week have permeated the student body as students feel that they have been robbed of their preparation time for these exams.

Over the past years, there has been a decrease in the number of midterms administered during the designated midterm week.  Due to complaints from numerous parents and Port taxpayers, midterm week was in danger of being eliminated.

“If midterm week was taken away, students would be forced to take all midterms in class so we wouldn’t have the full two hours of testing that is necessary,” said junior Paige Torres.  “In addition, a full week of school would leave little to no time for studying for midterms.”

In order to retain the week, the school is administering an increased number of exams.  This has resulted in students having an exorbitant amount of exams during the week.

“Midterm week is helpful because it gives students more opportunity to study for tests that are worth  a large portion of their second quarter grades,” said senior Astrid Phillipson.

Aside from classes being held the Friday of midterm week,  not much has changed with the overall scheduling.  Traditionally, midterms were held from Tuesday to Friday with Monday classes.  In reality, everything has just been switched to a day later.

Conveniently, Martin Luther King Day fell on midterm week last year.  As a result, students were able to spend the entire week preparing for their exams.

The added number of exams in the schedule forces students to take as many as three two-hour exams in one day with ten minutes in between.  Students do not have enough time to take a mental break or eat a snack as they are forced to run to a different classroom and take a test in a completely different subject.  The additional stress  associated with this is not conducive to students’ health and may lead to lower test scores.

“I know a ton of people who have midterms one after the other, five minutes in between,” said Torres. “I think that this is insane.  This schedule is even harsher time-wise than the SAT and ACT exams.”

Although students should be thankful that the school has preserved this week rather than forced teachers to organize in-class midterms, the unfair scheduling makes their complaints credible.  If it is the districts intention for students to perform well on these exams, it should create a schedule that provides them with enough time to study as well as take a mental break between exams.  This would allow students to have a better grasp of the material, and feel more confident going into their exams.

With a tightly packed midterm schedule it’s  all the more important to be prepared and plan your life accordingly.

“I tell myself that I should study way in advanced for midterms, but that’s probably not going to happen, so fingers crossed,” said senior Lauren Livingston.