Do we really need March exams?


Science News

Jane Mathews '23, Guest Contributor

I can still feel myself shaking. Whether it was from the cold March air or the nerves has long since faded into memory, as has my Bio knowledge; nonetheless, I remember the way my hand trembled as I held my pencil. There is no justification for this kind of torment.

March exams, liked or not, are an unavoidable part of our time at St. Luke’s. Or rather, they were until last year. When Covid struck, taking all of life’s underappreciated joys with it, the first and honestly only upside came when the school chose to cancel testing. Most students, and seemingly teachers alike, assumed that it would mark the end of an era, or preferably the start of a new one: a time without March exams. However, despite the praise the school received for their presumed decision, administrators opted to return to our exam schedule as usual. In spite of an onslaught of complaints, albeit mostly from me, St. Luke’s has stood behind their choice, begging the question, Is it really all worth it? 

My immediate and selfish reaction is of course not. The idea that the entirety of an academic year can be distilled to two days worth of testing is almost comical. Beyond that, the fact that one exam is ten percent of each student’s year-end grade is beyond unfair. If someone is sick, anxious, or has another complication that causes them to be or feel unprepared, they are sacrificing a large portion of their average. Apart from that, for a school that prides itself in prioritizing mental health, would it not make sense to remove the most stressful week of the year? Students up late, cramming knowledge they will soon forget, does not show if anyone has grasped the information we have learned. It is instead an exercise in short-term recall. Having the continual pressure throughout the year culminating in one singular moment seems a bit absurd. 

However, upon reflection and consultation with current college students, I can see the rationale behind the March exams. As much as I despise them, and I truly cannot express how much that is, they will not simply disappear because St. Luke’s stops requiring them. After all, the school is meant to be a college preparatory school, and ignoring the fact that we will have to take exams later would be irresponsible. Families do not pay thousands of dollars per year to have their children ill-prepared for exam season. Besides, it is not as if the school leaves us hanging out to dry; ESS offers preparatory resources, and the schedule includes study days before and during the week of tests. In some ways, suffering through the sleepless nights is the most beneficial thing St. Luke’s can do. They are making us learn by force. 

There seems to be no obvious path forward. March exams are clearly a point of contention and anxiety amongst students; however, the long-term benefits cannot be trivialized. While I would love to completely eliminate testing and claim that it is pointless, I simply cannot ignore the importance of being prepared for the future. I’m hopeful that the school will find a happy medium or at least a tolerable medium. Which brings us back to where we started: do we really need March exams? Or, perhaps, here is a better question: can we find something better than March exams?