Complaints about imminent “midterm seasons” are a ubiquitous part of the Penn undergraduate experience. Many students dread these periods throughout the semester filled with papers, exams, and group projects, but they are standard practice at Penn.
For some students, “midterm season” may mean a couple of tests and essays scattered across a few-week period, but for others, exams can quickly pile up on the same days. Students may find themselves having multiple back-to-back-to-back midterms, with little time between them to even eat a proper meal. And even if students reach out to professors far in advance to get one of several consecutive exams postponed, the professors have no administrative obligation to do so.
To improve this situation, Penn should institute a policy that allows students with three midterm exams in a single day to get one of the exams postponed.
Currently, Penn has a policy that exempts students from taking three final exams in a single day, allowing them to postpone the middle exam. However, no such policy exists for midterms. Although final exams typically cover more material and are more heavily weighted than midterms, having multiple midterms in a single day can cause the same level of stress as having three final exams in one day.
Unlike finals, midterms take place in the middle of the semester, when students bear the additional burden of having regular class and extracurricular schedules. If Penn is willing to offer a postponement policy during the final exam period—a period that, by design, gives students extra time to study—the University should offer the same policy during a crowded midterm season.
Midterms are often worth upwards of 20% of a student’s final grade in a given course. Many professors teach new material up to the class period before the midterm and wait until then to reveal the format of the exam. For this reason, it can be difficult for students to begin studying far in advance. With three exams in one day, it also becomes harder for students to attend review sessions or study groups for all three courses. In this time-pressed situation, having multiple midterms in a single day can cause one or more of a student’s grades to suffer—not because they were too lazy to study, but because there are not enough hours in each day to properly prepare for three consecutive midterms.
Throughout the semester, students are responsible for juggling their academic responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and social lives, all while trying to remain physically and mentally healthy. This is difficult on its own, but having multiple midterms on the same day can bring students’ lives to halt and make them feel it is impossible for them to emerge without their GPAs taking a hit. While rescheduling an exam and finding a proctor for that time period may be slightly inconvenient, it can support student mental health in a school that focuses so much on performance and academic rigor.
A student should not be forced to skip sleep to fit in three different study sessions. A student should not feel overwhelmed because he or she does not have time to eat between consecutive exams. Penn students, by nature, have strong work ethics and are no strangers to long nights of studying. Placing three exams on the same day, however, creates unnecessary and unhealthy stress that could be easily mitigated if Penn had a policy to postpone the middle midterm.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
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