Holding research exams during midterm week is a tiring scheduling decision

Daniel Greilsheimer, Staff Writer

As the new year begins, midterms are on the horizon. Midterm week is often one of the most stressful weeks for students, as they have to be prepared for cumulative tests on all of the material they learned in the first two quarters. At Schreiber, midterms are normally upwards of the two hours, and students may have to take multiple midterms in one day. Testing is an extremely stressful experience that often leaves students mentally exhausted. This is especially true for freshmen in the first high school midterm week, as it is the first time they must take a series of major tests. Midterm week is also the only time when freshmen are able to take the screening examinations for Schreiber’s elite research programs. Consequently, students are faced with added pressure and may be unable to perform at their best. To make matters worse, these exams are usually held in the afternoon, immediately after a midterm.

There are three research programs at Schreiber: science, math, and social science. Each research program takes ten students. The very competitive selection process for each program consists of a written test followed by a face-to-face interview. The research tests are made to be challenging so the programs can separate the candidates based on the specific qualifications that they are looking for: the social science exam involves a stimulus-based multiple-choice section and an opinion essay, the science exam tests one’s experimental design skills, and the math exam involves olympiad-style questions.

Exhaustion from a student’s regular midterm schedule, coupled with the thought of another difficult test, is sometimes too much to handle for students who might otherwise do well on these tests, unfairly hurting their chances of getting into one of these programs. Stress is the most important reason that research tests should be held at a different time. Midterms are the most important tests of the first half of the year and are especially stressful for students who have “borderline grades.”

“The research tests take away study time in the students; schedules for their midterms and provide another stressor on top of the already rigorous midterm week,” said sophomore Isabelle Kitay.

Since midterms at Schreiber are cumulative, students must study two quarters’ worth of material to ensure a strong performance on the test. This is extremely problematic for students applying to research. Since research tests are given in the afternoon, students lose precious study time for the next day’s test. Most students will not be granted interviews for the research programs after taking the qualifying tests. As a result of the time lost taking the research test, that student may perform not as well on the tests that actually count for their grades, and, consequently, they may experience more stress in order to improve their grades in the second semester.

A student’s performance on a research exam may be negatively impacted by the stress and exhaustion they experience as a result of taking a midterm in the morning. In addition, when cramming for midterms, most lose sleep. Having half days during midterm week allows students to catch up on sleep study. Research exams take away those hours. Lack of sleep makes studying more difficult, and the students are then more likely not to perform as well.

“Research tests should not be held during midterm week. Last year, I was exhausted during the test from my other midterms,” said sophomore Terry McGinty. Sleep loss and stress have a negative impact on mental health. Recently, Schreiber has focused attention on mental well-being, including implementing Well-Being Wednesdays. Scheduling the research tests at a different time would help to alleviate this particular source of stress for freshmen.

One potential solution is to schedule research exams during one’s regular class in that subject. For instance, one would take the math research entry exam during their regularly scheduled math class. A counter-argument can be made that because the research tests are optional, students should be able to plan their time effectively for studying and deal with the stress. However, with increased competition, students are constantly looking for a way to distinguish themselves, and the research programs are a great way to do this. Over one hundred students try out for a research program each year. Students should not be forced to cope with the sleep loss and stress that results from scheduling the research tests during midterm week because they seek admittance to these prestigious programs.