A Boy, A Girl, Exams

Exams: Are We Losing Sight of Learning

By Isabel Banta

It’s that time of year again. For me, multiple feelings accompany the dread of midterms; guilt when I watch a single episode of Friday Night Lights, and lethargy when I realize I’ve read the same sentence over twenty times or have to turn to dance breaks to make my mind function.

I’ve heard dozens of study Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.08.32 PMstrategies over the years: eating M+M’s after a couple pages of studying and allowing yourself Netflix binge periods are the two that come to mind.

In the course of two weeks, all of us will feel that itch of procrastination, remember that we have another math unit to study the night before the exam, and ask ourselves the same question: Why are we even going through all this stress?

I’m just going to say it: I love school, and when I learn a new piece of information I present it proudly at the dinner table, waiting for my parents to fawn over their little academic. What do exams celebrate, though? Do they celebrate these little bits of information that excite us or do they encourage us to fill our mind with too much information that will inevitably be forgotten the day after?

If you walk through the GA hallways the week before exams, the answer is obvious: study guides and flash cards are spread out on the floor and girls are practically twitching with nervousness.

“I’m going to fail Chemistry,” you hear a girl complain, fingering through her notes and looking dejected. (Side note: You aren’t going to fail, ok? Look up the word in the dictionary. Definition of fail: be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal. Just make your goal showing up to the exam, and then congrats: You didn’t fail!).

As you continue down the hallway, you see another girl pestering a teacher: “Will this be on the exam? What about this? Ok, but this?”

I wish that exams were celebrations of learning rather than judges of learning. I’m guilty of this myself, eagerly anticipating my first semester report card like the rest of the school. Currently, the break-up of semester grades goes something like this: 40% Quarter 1, 40% Quarter 2, and 20% Midterm.

Would I call it unfair? Maybe not here, but who knows what I would say the night before my Chinese midterm. It just bewilders me how one test (Collegeboard can take notes on this as well) can leave such a mark on our self-esteem and opinion of ourselves.

The atmosphere on exam day is tense.

“The gym is so uncomfortable. If you cough or sneeze or even drop a pencil, everyone looks at you,” said Rena Beckles, Group XII. When you walk into an exam you feel this silence, hundreds of students already mentally taking their test before it even starts.

People are shaking and tapping their knees, apprehensively chatting with their friends (about how hard the exam is going to be, probably), or just staring blankly into the distance. After an entire weekend of non-stop studying (can we all agree that we will forever hate MLK Day?), you are finally about to take your test and it will all be over in Two. Short. Hours. All the stress just doesn’t feel worth it for such a tiny point in our lives.

Let’s put the joy of learning back in exams, ok? Enjoy what you are learning and ask questions. Your teachers don’t want you to do badly. They are here to encourage you and help you. (A note to teachers: tests the week before exams? Really?) Your freshman year bio exam will not affect you later in life. I promise. I hardly remember mine, to be honest.

The Joy of Cramming: The Buildup to Midterms 

By Kirk Meyer

Every school year as the calendar turns to January, exams dominate conversations in classrooms and hallways of Brunswick and GA. In my fourth year of high school exams and seventh year of exams in total, I know the feeling all too well. From Ms. Brennan’s well-organized review packets to my sixth grade Math teacher introducing a new topic during the exam, I’ve seen nearly everything.

Exam season starts with a little terror in the pit of your stomach on the Sunday before school starts up again after break. Every year, I tell myself that I will start preparing for my impending exams and every year I decide that watching one more episode of Parks and Recreation or How I Met Your Mother on Netflix is much more important.

The two-week vacation goes unused, and the next two weeks feature much of the same.  Sure, I do review questions when they’re assigned for homework, but realistically the biggest thing I’ve learned from years of exams is that procrastination is unavoidable, especially during “review week.”

The two review days themselves are ridiculous. Since we have each class with shortened blocks, the day features just as much walking on the path as it does actual class time. January path walks are especially frustrating, given the limited walking space from residual snow and the ear-numbingly-cold temperatures. The moments actually spent in class yield vague questions like, “So, uh, can you go over cells?”

I spend the next three days locked in my room with brief breaks for food, water, and exercise.  Having exams the following week has ruined MLK weekend for me the last few years. A problem – given that I now need to know about him for my US History exam.

The weekend is also dominated by football, specifically the NFL playoffs. While I’ve been lucky that my Jets haven’t been good enough to get far enough in the past four years, I still make an effort to budget time so I can watch the big games … and do some studying.

I credit the NFL with teaching me about Cowboys, Patriots, the Gold Rush, and whatever a “Packer” is.

The exams themselves are generally anticlimactic.  You sit in a massive gym with seemingly every student in the school (and somehow end up sitting next to that girl who unfollowed you on Instagram) for two hours before being released to the cold air to complain with classmates about how unfair question number 4 was and try to beat the post-exam Corbo’s rush.

By the time Friday rolls around, everyone is completely fried.  We battle through the final exam, making up theorems that don’t exist or creating our own verb conjugations. At this point, the answers don’t matter; it’s what they represent.

Each question brings us one step closer to the freedom: the feeling of euphoria after the last exam is finally over. Nothing can dampen the enthusiasm during the weekend after exams, at least that’s what we think. Then the exams get handed back.