How the Timing of Midterm Exams Affects the American Teenager’s Stress Levels

An opinion piece by staff writer Alessia Prenda.


This winter at Cardinal Newman, we will be taking our midterm exams before Christmas break. While many rejoice over this announcement, others feel differently and wish we could have more time to study. There seems to be a debate regarding this subject, but it seems to me that midterm exams should most definitely be taken before the holidays start to kick in — Here’s my take on the matter:

As many of us do, I often find myself procrastinating on studying for most tests. While I start out well-intentioned, my motivation fades quickly and distraction settles in as the date of my test approaches. This sentiment can be observed among young people in high schools and colleges across the country. According to a survey conducted by Magoosh, an SAT prep website, 86% of high school students report that they often procrastinate and that number rises to about 88% in college. Because of this, exams are often dreaded by students and teachers alike. The sooner the exam can take place, the better chance a student has at recalling the material from memory without having to study as much. 

More than ever before, high school students report extreme levels of stress that exceed those reported by many adults. Keeping in mind that most of those adults have full-time jobs and rent to pay, this fact is astonishing to me. Research conducted by a group at Global NewsWire in 2020 determined that around 45% of high school students report feeling stressed all the time. In this study, high school students declared that their stress levels were about 5.8 on a 10-point scale, which far exceeds the healthy 3.8 score. In some ways, adults of older generations believe that high school gets more challenging each year. With this in mind, we must understand that, as human beings, we have our limits! The handful of breaks we are given from school should be spent in rest and relaxation, which is invariably vital to one’s physical and mental health. When midterms are set to be taken after winter break, it becomes harder to recharge because we will either be studying the entire time or avoiding the eventual avalanche of stress waiting for us in the New Year. 

When taking into consideration the stress levels of American teenagers and their tendencies to procrastinate, I think it is obvious that midterm exams should be taken before winter break. When students take their midterms before the holidays, they are more likely to pay attention, better recall information, and return to school in the New Year feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. My question is, why wouldn’t we want to take our midterms before winter break?