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Midterms arrive at ND early

Katie Perry | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Although the week prior to spring break is infamous on college campuses for rigorous midterms, some students – especially freshmen – are finding many professors have scheduled exams to take place during the weeks before.

Jonathan Lawrence, visiting assistant professor of theology, scheduled his 100-level theology course mid-semester exam two and a half weeks before spring break. Since the course is divided into three distinct units, it was logical to schedule the exam after the completion of the first unit, Lawrence said.

“In some cases it just makes sense to have the exam at a certain time because a unit is finished, and if we postponed the exam then the material wouldn’t be as fresh in everyone’s minds,” Lawrence said.

Another common reason cited by Lawrence and other professors was related to the mid-semester evaluations required for all first-year courses. According to Lawrence, grade reports must be submitted by 3 p.m. on the Friday before break. Because there is no lapse in time, a student who performs poorly on the midterm exam may have a skewed grade on their evaluation.

“I need to submit mid-semester grade reports for freshmen,” Lawrence said. “[Scheduling the exam early] allows me time to have another assignment due this week so that the mid-semester grade isn’t based only on the midterm.”

In addition to providing a grace period for students seeking to improve grades with other assignments, early midterms also allow professors the adequate time to grade exams so evaluations can be given to the Registrar on deadline.

“I teach first-year students,” physics professor Jacek Furdyna said. “I need to have some concrete basis on which to provide feedback to the Registrar on how first-year students are doing before the mid-semester break.”

Both Lawrence and Furdyna said another reason for holding their respective exams early is to help students who may be swamped with exams in other classes during the conventional mid-term time slot.

“Having mid-term exams that straddle the rush is the way to avoid overloading the students,” Furdyna said.

Junior Chelsea Horgan said from a learning perspective, scheduling exams over multiple weeks is a more rational means of testing students on what they know.

“Staggering midterms is definitely a better idea, because when [professors] lump all of the tests together, I feel less prepared for each one,” Horgan said.

When Lawrence taught his course four years ago, he scheduled the exam early in an attempt to relieve stress from students who had multiple exams during the week before break. According to Lawrence, this strategy has since been employed by numerous professors and has thus backfired.

“Inevitably other professors have had the same idea, and each semester many of my students have still had other exams at the same time,” Lawrence said.

Freshman J.T. Platek experienced this last week when he faced four mid-semester exams – two weeks prior to the typical time for midterms. Despite the onslaught of untimely tests, however, Platek remained optimistic.

“I’m happy [my exam schedule] was cluttered because now I can devote the next couple weeks to lounging,” Platek said.

But according to Lawrence, other students may not share this glass-half-full perspective.

“Some students have been frustrated, but most of the time they realize that

there’s no perfect solution to the problem,” Lawrence said. “The last week before break may be the busiest but it’s going to be pretty busy for a couple weeks there

regardless of when the exams are scheduled.”

Regardless of the unplanned coordination of early exams, students like Horgan recognize that some professors – especially of the higher-level courses – are basing their midterm schedules on student input.

“Professors are giving us more of an option as to when the test is,” Horgan said. “Freshman and sophomore year we didn’t really have options but now professors give us possible test dates, and we get to vote when the best time is to take it.”