I was absolutely shocked to realize the other day when looking at my planner that we are currently around half-way through fall semester. Seeing as the pandemic has warped my sense of time so intensely, I didn’t quite realize just how much time had passed since the first day of classes at the beginning of September. The wonderful thing about this half-way point in the semester is that it also marks the heart of midterm season (you may catch a hint of sarcasm at that use of the word “wonderful.”) Midterms weren’t really something we had in high school, so I thought I’d take some time to explain what they look like at Tufts and why they’re such a large catalyst for complaint in college.
Midterms are essentially major tests, exams, or projects that professors assign around the midpoint of the semester. Sometimes they occur exactly half-way, and sometimes they pop up during the weeks before or after that marker. Professors use midterms to test how much the students have learned throughout the year so far, and they’re usually worth a substantial amount of a student’s final grade in the class. Many students will use their success on a midterm as a gauge for how well they are doing in the class—a positive midterm result will help a student realize that their note-taking and studying skills are paying off for that particular class and perhaps encourage them to take another course in the subject, and a negative result may cause the student to Pass/Fail the course or amp up their energy directed toward the homework. Depending on the course, the midterm can take place in the form of a typical exam, a long essay, or something else. Due to the weight that they can have on students’ grades, midterm season usually coincides with higher stress levels and an increased amount of hours logged in Tisch Library. Here, I’ve laid out what midterms look like for each of my classes this semester:
ENG 63: American Fiction: 1900-1960: in-class, handwritten exam in a blue book analyzing three passages from books that we’ve read so far
FMS 20: Art of the Moving Image: 6-8 page essay detailing the stylistic choices of a film of our choosing and how those choices function within the film of a whole
BIO 07: Plants and Humanity: standard 100 pt. multiple-choice and short-answer exam—we have two of these throughout the semester, both of which are considered “midterms”
FR 04: Intermediate French II: standard 100 pt. multiple-choice and short-answer exam with a written composition component—again, we have two of these before the final
SOC 94: Sociology of Asian Americans: short-answer exam
As you can see, midterms can vary pretty widely depending on the subject. They can also vary within departments depending on the professor—this will be my first time ever completing an English midterm! The fact that these exams and papers all fall within the span of a couple weeks of each other is why any college student you talk to right now may seem extra fatigued or stressed; we have a lot on our minds at the moment, not even considering the pandemic or the election!
Although these midterms may seem daunting (they sure are to me), Tufts has a wide variety of resources for any student seeking extra academic guidance. Tisch Library and Eaton Computer Lab are open late into the night with free computers for students to use. The Student Accessibility and Academic Resource (StAAR) Center has a ton of resources for students to take advantage of, including peer tutoring, time management tutorials, and a Writing Fellows program to spice up any essay that needs a bit of help. As well, Counseling and Mental Health Services has an amazing array of counselors that students can talk to for any reason.
Ultimately, Tufts is an academically-rigorous institution–classes are hard! But midterm season doesn’t last forever, and the university does a great job in supporting and bolstering us to make sure we succeed in our classes and beyond. Now, I think it’s time I stop procrastinating by writing this blog and actually start on my FMS paper :).