FCLC Says Midterm Mayhem is Worth the Stress


Forget the parties, movies and fun nights out; once midterms hit, your life will be an endless study session fueled by massive amounts of coffee. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published: March 4, 2010

The library is packed with students studiously reviewing notes, writing essays, and looking for the perfect study group. Professors’ schedules are packed with students looking for answers to questions they’ve slept through in class. The writing center is booked and the Student Lounge is silent.

The scene is all too familiar to Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students who have experienced the stress of midterms before. Students tend to feel especially anxious around midterm time, which usually becomes a juggling act of finding time to complete assignments and study. It essentially becomes a balancing act.

“During midterms, students are still in class, writing papers and doing other assignments, as well as studying for midterms,” said Nick Sulicki, FCLC ’11.

“I’m usually extremely nervous when midterms come around, especially because most of the midterms I take are based on cumulative material,” said Angie Chen, FCLC ’12.

“I detest midterms but lately it has not been a major issue. Rather than taking a midterm in a particular class, [some of my professors give] three exams and I have the peace of mind that even if I didn’t do as well as I should have, I have two other test grades to help,” said Sulicki. “When I do get a professor who gives a midterm, it is nerve wracking because the one exam accounts for such a large portion of the grade.”

While most students dread midterms, a select lucky few don’t have to worry.

“I don’t have midterms since I’m a science major,” said Martin Buchar, FCLC ’10. “All science classes have exams that are spread out. We get a test every month and then the final is either cumulative or it’s just another test. When I took core classes, I suffered through midterms, but that was completed after my sophomore year.”

Yet even students that have to worry about midterms seem to feel less pressure now than during the torture that is finals week.

“I do feel less pressure [than when taking finals] but not significantly less. The finals do weigh more and are more important, but that doesn’t make the midterms any less stressful,” Chen said.

“I definitely study for [midterms],  but not as much as for finals,” said Maggie Lewis-Lerman, FCLC ’11.

And although students could think of countless activities that would be more enjoyable than taking tests (a.k.a. anything else), they tend to agree that midterms are useful and important for their academic careers.

“I think they are important because they force students to demonstrate how much they have absorbed from the class material,” said Edlira Qatipi, FCLC ’10.

“Midterms are important because they can be a good tool in assessing how well you are doing in the class so far,” Lewis-Lerman said.

“The importance of both midterms and finals is to see what you have learned over the course of the semester,” Sulicki said.

Some professors place a high value on midterms because they reflect students’ academic progress thus far and are a way to give students feedback to help improve their future progress in class.

“They reflect the real work and dedication a student is putting [into] the class and are the first indicators of the student’s progress,” said Laura Sández, adjunct professor of Spanish at Fordham College at Rose Hill.

“The midterm isn’t just a test of what students have learned; it’s also a test of whether they’re spending enough time studying, whether they’re studying effectively and whether they can identify and really understand the important facts and concepts. It gives them feedback about how well they’re managing their life,” said Phillip Dennis, adjunct professor of theology at FCLC.

But just how good of an indicator are midterm grades of what the student will earn on the final and overall in the course?

“[Grades tend to be] fairly consistent, although my best reward last year was a student who went from 70 in the midterm to 81 in the final,” Sández said.

“I find that stronger students start high and end high; there is generally not much tapering off. Weaker students tend to do better over time, they start to get a sense of what is required and most try to live up to the expectation. Really weak students tend to stay weak. When I say, ‘weak,’ I mean those who put in minimal effort versus those who really push themselves and overachieve. My general impression is that people are steady in their effort level,” said Heather Gautney, assistant professor of sociology at FCLC.

“I have seen students go from an F to an A, and vice versa, and seen students consistently maintain an F or A average all semester long, and everything in between,” said Dennis.

Some professors urge that midterm grades aren’t always an indicator of how you will do in a course.

“Midterm grades aren’t always a good predictor of final exam grades or grades for a course overall. Some students start off strong and then have trouble as the semester moves along, for any number of personal or academic reasons; some students get consistent grades throughout the course, whether that means earning a D or an A; and some students improve their grades over the course of the semester,” Dennis said.

“Sometimes, I’ll have a student who did not do well [on the midterm] who puts forth the extra effort for the final. That’s fairly common,” said Gautney.

And students shouldn’t feel as though professors will lose hope for them if they don’t get a desirable result on one test. Contrary to what a midterm-hating student might believe, professors do understand that students oftentimes have multiple commitments that can become overwhelming.

“I don’t judge a student as intelligent or unintelligent or as good or bad on the basis of his grades. Instructors know very little about their students’ lives, for the most part,” said Dennis.

In the end, even though midterms are a time filled with stress, late-night cramming, and tons of Starbucks coffee, they are also a necessary step in academic progress for students and professors alike. So push ahead students; spring break is on the horizon and we can all catch up on our much-needed sleep then.