HBHS’s Return to Midterms


Review material for several midterm exams are spread across a student’s desk. Students typically spend almost the entire week before midterms trying to prepare for their exams by reviewing everything they have learned so far that year. “Usually I will study the packets that my teachers give me and I’ll usually make a study plan on what I want to study each night,” said Miriam Burgher ‘22.

Rachel Lindof, Assistant Head Editor

In January of 2019, I got ready for my first midterms week as a high school student. With probably five pounds worth of study materials, and the weight of heavy pressure to do well, I studied like a maniac, not knowing what to expect. Now as a senior, after just completing my last midterms week as a high school student, I can confidently say that I think I was able to figure it out.

Midterms can be one of the most stressful times of the school year for many students, and especially for underclassmen who have yet to experience the process, it can feel like a foreign world. This year in particular was even more hectic for many students due to the fact that it is the first time in a year and a half that we are having midterms. This means that both the freshman and sophomore classes had their first experience with exams this year. Sophomore Sydney Lemos ‘24 said of the whole process that it was “terrifying–I was definitely scared going into it because I didn’t know how to prepare for it because I had never done it before, and I think that the teachers were like ‘oh, you’re a sophomore so you’ve done it before,’ but that was not the case.” 

While it may be fair to say that most students do not enjoy the process of having to take these exams, there are several silver linings to the ordeal. “I think that it’s beneficial for kids to go through that experience for whatever paths kids pursue and it’s not just about higher education–going to college and preparing for college midterms and studying for what might be two or three tests which might be your whole grade in college, and while that’s beneficial in of itself the learning experience that you go through in trying to have to prepare for the midterm is as beneficial a learning experience as is actually taking the midterm,” said Hollis Brookline High School Principal, Tim Girzone. Many students are led to believe that midterms and finals at the high school level are meant to solely prepare us for exams in college, but Girzone continues to say that, “no matter what walk of life you end up in I think that it’s a beneficial experience to go through having to prepare for and recall sometimes a large amount of information…those kinds of learning experiences strengthen an individual and make them a better student or better candidate for a [job] interview. There’s a little pressure in an interview, you have to recall things on a dime and be able to respond to pressure situations in a lot of different avenues–not just an interview but job performance, so I think it’s a good exercise and I think it’s a safe environment to do it: in a highschool setting the stakes are there but they’re not make or break.”

I know that as a freshman or sophomore particularly this year, it can be hard to see any of the benefits that midterms and finals may have on you at the high school level. By the time you’re preparing to leave this school, however, to go onto your new endeavors, you may begin to see the value that these seemingly tortuous exams can have. Senior Miriam Burgher ‘22 says that her experience with midterm and final exams over her highschool years have “definitely” prepared her for college next year, “I think it would be really weird if I hadn’t taken a midterm or a final and had to take it in college; I don’t really like them but I’m glad that they showed us how to do them now,” said Burgher ‘22. 

In a typical school year here at HBHS, midterms and final exams are each worth 10% of a student’s final grade for a year-long course, and 20% for a semester-long course. Due to several contributing factors, this year the administration here at HBHS decided to reduce the weight of exams in year-long and semesterised courses to just 5% and 10% respectively. Principal Girzone said that, “when we returned from vacation we saw a significant spike in [Covid] cases each of which require the five day quarantine, so knowing that students were going to be impacted in that preparation piece, and meeting with their teachers in CavBlock and studying for the exams, we knew that that part of it was going to be heavily impacted so we had some concerns with students ability to 1.) make up missed work while they’re out and 2.) prepare for the midterms while also trying to still shoot for that normal experience to help kids get all the benefits in a midterm.” After consulting with the school administration both here at the high school as well as at the SAU level, with principals of other nearby schools, and with student body members of the student council, Principal Girzone came to the ultimate decision that the weight of exams needed to be reduced for this year; next year midterms and finals are expected to return to normal as these changes were made specific to current circumstances.