I Hate Midterms and Finals! They Stress Me Out.

Arts and Crafts at the Kitchen Table with Mom with Kids

This photo has everything:

-Mom dressed in baggy clothes.

-Three kids gathered around the kitchen table doing crafts.

-Mom looking anxious about Easter egg dyeing.

-Cluttered bulletin board and mom calendar.

-Kids’ crafts stuck to kitchen window.

I took no standardized tests in middle school or high school. That’s no tests for the entire 7 years of my middle school and high school career (6th Grade-12th Grade). Didn’t take midterms or final exams. Didn’t even take quizzes. Never wrote answers in a blue test booklet. Never filled out a scantron or completed a multiple choice test. My teachers shared old tests packets. We were able to look at old tests to examine well-written answers to specific questions posed, but I don’t remember taking practice exams ever.

In fact, the first standardized test I took was the SAT during my senior year of English high school. It was 1983 and I was sitting in a classroom at the American School in London, listening in awe as American students waiting to take the test with me shared where they were applying and where they wanted to go to college. Harvard. Yale, Columbia. USC. I sat quietly as I had only just been given the Barron’s Guide to American Colleges to kick off my college search. I had no idea where I wanted to go to college in the United States. In fact, the sum total of my knowledge of American colleges was knowing about Douglas College at Rutgers University because my mother attended for a year and walking on the Bryn Mawr College, Westpoint/U.S. Military Academy, and William & Mary College campuses as a child. That’s it.

Instead of tests, midterms, and final exams, I handed in essays in middle school and high school. Not term papers, but 2- or 3-page essays. My teachers must have graded them, but these grades were not recorded anywhere. I never had a GPA or a transcript of grades. Twice a year, my teachers would record a 1-sentence comment in my report card accompanied by how many exams I had passed. I was a very poor test taker. My results were always depressing. I can’t help thinking that if I had taken practice tests I might have done better…

Middle School Edition Ultimate Student Planner

My middle school classes and high school classes were all taught in the same way with the teacher lecturing the entire class with no class participation or requests for questions. The teachers talked the entire class period while students wrote notes in exercise books. The exercise books were color coded by subject (green for science, yellow for history, blue for geography, red for English Literature and English Language, yellow for domestic science/cookery). Not sure about the color of the French cahiers or exercise books.

High School Edition Ultimate Student Planner

Whatever instruction we got at my British high school, was supposed to prepare us for national exams. It didn’t. The national exams were the Ordinary-level (O-level) exams taken in 10th grade (5th year or Year 11) and the Advanced-level (A-level) exams at 12th grade (Upper Sixth or Year 13). Again these were essay tests with a brief multiple choice section. O-level exams were 3 hours long, while A-level exams were 6 hours long. I took 9 O-levels and 4 A-levels. None of the national exams used scantrons or fill-in-the-bubble answer sheets. As you can imagine, taking the SAT was nerve wracking as I was so ill-prepared.

The College Edition Ultimate Student Planner

By a stroke of good luck(!), my SAT scores were good enough to get in to an American college. I applied to 7 and got in to 6 colleges. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with the format of the SAT and being completely intimidated by all the American School of London kids who were in the test room with me. So…IMO…there is something to be said for exposing kids to the standardized test format.

Note: The British educational stages or grades are very different from the system in the United States. In fact, the British educational stages have changed since I attended school in England. Here’s the breakdown (first, British years; second, the new British years; and finally, the American grades):

  • Nursery — Preschool — 3-year-old Preschool
  • Nursery — Reception — 4-year-old Preschool
  • Preparatory 1 — Year 1 — Kindergarten
  • Preparatory 2 — Year 2 — 1st Grade
  • Transition 1 — Year 3 — 2nd Grade
  • Transition 2 — Year 4 — 3rd Grade
  • Transition 3 — Year 5 — 4th Grade
  • Transition 4 (11+ Exam) — Year 6 — 5th Grade
  • 1st Year — Year 7 — 6th Grade
  • 2nd Year — Year 8 — 7th Grade
  • 3rd Year — Year 9 — 8th Grade
  • 4th Year — Year 10 — 9th Grade
  • 5th Year (Ordinary Level/O-Level Exams) — Year 11 — 10th Grade
  • Lower Sixth Form — Year 12 — 11th Grade
  • Upper Sixth Form (Advanced Level/A-Level Exams) — Year 13 — 12th Grade

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