Highly weighted course work adds to student anxiety

midterms

How many students test well? Let’s be real. As much as we do study or try to study, on average our test results don’t reflect our efforts. Obviously we can’t completely get rid of tests and exams – some people strive with them instead of essays and assignments.

However, I had a midterm this past week and it was worth a hefty 40 per cent. Never in my life had I been more nervous and worried about a university mark. I did well on the first assignment, which was worth 20 per cent, but if I bomb this midterm (which I will find out soon enough if I did or didn’t) that assignment mark wouldn’t mean much.

Also, it’s not just my course that had a 40 per cent midterm. I’ve heard others talk about highly weighted assignments in several diverse subjects in post secondary education.

We talk about mental illness, anxiety and stress that builds for university students. We discuss ways to overcome these matters. Yet something like a 40 per cent midterm or anything worth such a high percentage is only going to add to the anxiety and stress.

My first reaction to the midterm was: would I want a midterm worth 20 per cent and an assignment worth 20 per cent – which is double the work. Or would I be content with 40 per cent on one test. My initial reaction was to divide the 40 in half.

So I decided to take this same scenario to my friends, some who test well and others who don’t. A majority agreed with me, even the ones who test well, that it’s easier on students if the weight of something is less, even if it means doing more work.

Maybe I won’t be complaining if my mark comes back as one I’m happy with. However, I can say I don’t want to study for such a heavy weighted midterm or exam ever again.

This isn’t about complaining that I had a heavily weighted midterm, as much as it sounds like that. It’s about not putting almost half a course grade on one assignment. Students don’t need that much pressure on them, which they already have enough of.

For someone who doesn’t test well, and I know there’s others like me out there, I may look at the final course grade and see a reflection of the midterm.

But one thing this midterm did do was motivate me. It pushed me to study harder since it was weighted more and it will make me try harder on the remaining course assignments. I haven’t got my mark back yet, so maybe I’ll lose motivation if I get a good mark. Either way, as of right now, as I sit and wait to find out my mark, I’m already looking at the next assignment.

There’s four weeks left in this semester, which is four weeks to boost my mark as high as I can with the next assignment and the remaining portion of seminar participation.

Forty per cent is a lot, but complaining accomplishes nothing. I think we should avoid such a hefty weighted mark. Let’s not scare students with something so high, because I know I’m not the only one that feels this way.

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