My first encounter with midterms left me in a state of complete despair. I sat there looking down at the greatest poetry of the 20th century and I was being asked to fill in the blanks. Percy Shelley claimed: “Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration … Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Whilst international relations students may raise an eyebrow to that, you can imagine my disappointment that their work was being reduced to some kind of verbal coloring exercise.
This is by no means an attack on the professors who set the exams but rather the system that forces them to condescend to question whether we have actually read the material they set. The problem with midterms is that they’re clearly not designed to test whether you’ve engaged with what’s been taught. Rather, midterms are constructed to instill just enough fear in the girl sitting in the back row to drag her attention away from a text from the guy “who’s like super cute and totally flirted with her at the last date night,” so she can make a quick note on what free indirect speech means. They’re created to get the guy, who spends most days high as kite, off the sofa for half an hour so he can hastily copy down what a neurotransmitter does from the girl who’s sitting next to him.
Realistically, midterms are for the kids who only went to university because mummy and daddy told them to. Why else would you see more people in the class on the day of the midterm than any other? Lack of attendance certainly isn’t an act of rebellion, otherwise they wouldn’t care about the grades.
Why can’t universities recognize that these people are the exceptions, not the rule? Or at least they bloody well should be. Why not scrap midterms altogether? The only purpose they serve is to exasperate people who are actually here because they want to be.
When it comes to the real world, no one’s going to lend you notes or flash cards for missed experiences, and the students who chose not to attend lecture will find that out the hard way. Let’s abandon these petty tests altogether because, ultimately, do you really want your degree quantified by a pop quiz?
Katie Battcock is a third-year English Literature major.