Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 9-12

4 min read

Tackling Midterms and Finals

Jan 6, 2022 8:00 PM

The vast majority of college-level courses involve two large, overarching assessments at the halfway point and the end: midterms and finals. For any high school student planning to attend college, gaining experience in taking midterms and finals is a crucial part of their preparation for the next level of education. This preparation at the high school level--to help students develop the skills they need to have future success in taking college midterms and exams--is really two-fold. Naturally, high school midterms and exams provide opportunities for academic preparation, but they can also be a sort of emotional preparation for students as well. 

Midterms and finals are often coupled with anxiety. Stress and these large assessments seem to go hand-in-hand. There are a few key reasons for this anxiety-filled reality in students, and some tips and strategies for students (and parents) to keep in mind.

Stress Factor #1: The Amount of Material to Study

A typical high school class involves several tests given over the course of a semester or school year that cover units of study, chapters in a book, or generally manageable segments of learning. Midterms and finals cover a significant amount of material all in one assessment. Rather than being focused on one particular topic or subject, they encompasses months of material. The sheer volume of content that students are required to know for such a test often causes anxiety. In some cases, there may be material that students haven't used, looked at, or thought about in months, so that can feel quite challenging for students. It takes a different skill set to take a test over a great deal of material as opposed to the smaller tests given through a school year.

Upper School Girl

Stress Factor #2: Uncertainty of What/How to Study

Some high school (and college) instructors provide some sort of review or study guide to help students prepare for midterms and exams. Others may leave students on their own to guess what material ought to be focused on and reviewed. In either case, it can be difficult for high school students to know what material is most important and how to go about reviewing it.

Helpful Tips and Strategies for Stress Factors 1 and 2

  • Students need to listen to their teachers for guidance in how to prepare for midterms. If teachers offer a review or study guide, students ought to play close attention and be actively engaged in the review process. 
  • If a teacher does not offer a formal review or study guide, perhaps the best thing students can do is to collect all previous tests and quizzes in that course and use those as the guide. If a teacher has placed a topic or idea or question on a previous test or quiz, that is something the teacher considers important for the course and may come up again in a midterm or final.

Stress Factor #3: Pressure to Perform

At the college level, midterms and exams carry tremendous weight towards the overall course grade. How well a student scores on a test of this magnitude can make or break their final grade in the class.

At the high school level, midterms and exams are typically weighted far less than in college, yet students still feel the pressure to perform. Students echo a sentiment like, "My parents told me that I better get an A on this exam." This felt pressure has a direct impact on how students approach midterms and finals.

Helpful Tips and Strategies for Stress Factor 3

  • Parents can have a strong impact on a student´s anxiety level, either positive or negative. It is so important for parents to assure their students of their support and love, communicating that if they try and do their best, that is enough. This connects to the importance of parents knowing and understanding their children as unique individuals.

Stress Factor #4: Lack of Experience

In the most recent school years, many high school students have not taken a midterm or final due to extenuating circumstances (virtual learning, disrupted school years, etc.). With little opportunity to go through the process of preparing for a massive assessment of this nature, the unknown of it all can be unnerving for students. 

Helpful Tips and Strategies for Stress Factor 4

  • Students best learn how they will respond in a serious testing environment or under the weight of a heavy study load when they are actually placed in such a situation. Taking on midterms in high school with a solid effort of study, clear mind, and a positive attitude, will serve each student well as they progress in their education.

[Editor's Note: This blog post was adapted from a portion of the "Navigating Your Child's Education" podcast episode "Tackling Midterms and Final Exams," To hear the full conversation, make sure to check out it out here.]

Worthington Christian School
Written by Worthington Christian School

Founded in 1973, Worthington Christian School (WC) is central Ohio’s leader in Christian education offering a rigorous, college preparatory kindergarten to 12-grade academic program, dedicated to developing the mind of Christ in students through rigorous intellectual, creative, and physical pursuits.