It was the night of January 9th. A student had two exams and two projects due the next day and had been diligently working and studying for them for the past few weeks. She stayed up until 3:30 in the morning only getting three hours of sleep because of the work she had to finish. During midterm and exam time, this is a situation almost every student faces.
Exams and midterms have been proven to hurt students more than helping them. The first reason that exams are so harmful to students is the lack of sleep they impose. Teens and adults need about eight hours of sleep in order to function properly throughout the day. According to a study by One Class, students receive an average of 5.7 hours of sleep during exam time. Lack of sleep can cause memory problems and slow response, which can be a major problem for students trying to concentrate during their exams. In the long run, lack of sleep can cause long term effects like damaged brain neurons, eventually leading to brain impairment.
Freshman Laura Lucas constantly suffers from a lack of sleep, and it has been worse lately due to her exams. She stated, “Having to study and review every night usually causes me to stay up very late trying to feel prepared for exams and causes a lot of stress.”
Many students consume too much caffeine like coffee, soda, and energy drinks to make up for this lack of sleep. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that teenagers only consume about 100 mg of caffeine per day which is about one cup of coffee. However, for many teens like junior Janna Hester, it is likely they will consume about three to five cups of coffee a day to be able to stay awake and alert. Hester said, “On average I have about three or four cups of coffee a day.” It has also been proven by the FDA that teens are much more sensitive to caffeine causing negative health effects like anxiety and dehydration.
Davis Allen Cripe from Richland County is a sad example of caffeine being harmful to teenagers. Cripe passed away in April of 2017, during exam time, due to a caffeine overdose. Two hours before Cripe’s death, he consumed a large diet Mountain Dew, a Caffe Latte from McDonald’s, and an energy drink.
The stress caused by exams can also cause students to resort to dangerous and illegal stress relievers. Stress can lead to substance abuse by teens to help them feel better and less anxious. Since stress levels rise during exam time, students are more likely to resort to these things to cope with their stress. One study by Oxford University found that illegal substance abuse increases by 15% during exam time.
Exams and midterms also defeat the purpose of school by encouraging students to memorize material right before the test rather than truly learning and retaining the material over time. Most teachers do not review old material throughout the year or semester, causing students to fall into the pattern of memorizing for the unit test and then immediately forgetting. This may work for the student up until exam time when they discover they have forgotten everything over time and are forced to re-memorize the material.
Freshman Kamilo Lara agrees that exams can be stressful due to forgetting facts at the end of the semester that he previously memorized. He stated, “It is very stressful when it comes to exam time because you feel the need to memorize rather than applying what you have learned.”
Teacher Ms. Lisa Ellis thinks that exams can be beneficial, but only whenever they are written reasonably. She said, “I think a well-written exam can demonstrate the learning a student has learned over the course.”
Exams can be beneficial by teaching students proper time management. Students learn from exam time that studying over time is the better option compared to cramming the night before. This can teach students to work on things over time instead of the night before which can be helpful for situations in the future.
While exams and midterms can teach students important time management skills, they often are more harmful than helpful. Exams cause a lack of sleep for students to study leading to the overconsumption of caffeine and substance abuse. Exams also tend to defeat the whole purpose of learning by putting memorization of facts over retaining material. If teachers and schools were to see the facts of exams hurting students rather than helping them, maybe they will be less likely to impose this stress upon their students.
To help with this problem, teachers can review material throughout the semester rather than teaching a topic and completely moving on. By structuring their class to where students are constantly seeing old material, it helps students to not forget it over the course of the class. If students are reviewing over time, there will be less cramming to do before the exam, helping with students’ stress levels and making exams a true test of what students have been learning.