The new March exams: Horror, reinvented

Students+stress+over+exams+as+they+struggle+to+study+with+their+rigorous+coursework.

Photographer: Omar A.

Students stress over exams as they struggle to study with their rigorous coursework.

Ranad B. and Claire R.

Exams have undergone some drastic changes in their organization and implementation this year. What was once squarely in the middle of March has now split up to become a bit more complicated. 

Another student suffers as she tries to comprehend test material. Photographer: Omar A.

What are March exams? What changed? Why did they change to no longer be just March exams? All the answers are compiled here in this article for your convenience.

For the past two years, the only formal examination period has occurred during the first weeks of March, where all courses (except for fine arts and physical education) have had a mandatory formal exam for all students taking the courses. Since the first March exam period, school administrators collected feedback from teachers and students regarding the process and improvements they can make. As a result, last year’s feedback has led us to yet another new test period.

First of all, not all classes will have their mandatory Semester 2 exams in March this year. Yes, you heard that right! When you take this exam depends on the type of course you are in. Standard classes–classes that are not AP or IB–will take exams at the end of Semester 2, and one week will be designated for exams only, with no regular class meetings. 

On the other hand, ASD’s teacher-created Semester 2 exams have always been essentially split away from standard classes’ exams since they can serve as mock exams for students. Therefore, they cannot be conducted at the end of the year. 

The AP/IB mock exams will be taking place during a one-week interval in March, well before the classes’ final exams. Full IB diploma students will not have March exams unless they are currently in Year 2, meaning that the week still serves as a regular school week for them. On the other hand, IB Year 2 and AP students will have their exams on designated days during this week, where they will take exams during the school day and miss certain blocks, but then continue the school day by attending the rest of their classes.

In an email sent out to the Year 2 IB students by IB coordinator Katrina Charles stated, “If you are taking a mixture of IB and Non-IB classes you must attend school for half-day. For example, if your exam is Monday morning then you do not attend classes on Sunday afternoon and vice versa, for example, if your exam is Monday afternoon then you do not attend classes in the Monday morning session.”

Yeah, this is perplexing. The March exam schedule has changed considerably from previous years. But despite that, this new system is an experimental and imaginative way meant to help students prepare for other future exams.

The exams have been in the HS curriculum for three years now, each year changing based on the feedback given through the annual surveys. Before the March exams experimentation, mock IB and AP exams were conducted by only a few teachers, and some were even required on weekends. The examinations were not very consistent, so high school staff wanted to try to give more opportunities for more mock exams. 

Mr. Michael Roberts, the high school principal, stated in an interview, “We were losing one week at the end of Semester 1 and one week at the end of Semester 2 where some [students] had lots of exams while some had none.”

Last year though, students had a full week off for their exams. Each day was divided by subject, and students only attended school when they had an exam on that day. This period also served as mock exams for some AP/IB classes. 

The set of events that led to our new system are connected to the surveys sent to students and staff asking for comments about last year’s exams. According to Mr. Roberts, there was incredibly varied feedback. Eventually, all the executives of the high school met up in a conference to discuss this feedback and see how they could structure it to fit the needs of as many people as possible.

As a final thought, Mr. Roberts remarked, “I know students see the examinations as quite threatening and quite stressful, and it’s a certain level of stress you particularly want to avoid. However, I think the way to look at examinations [is that] they are really good practice for the exams you are going to have to do [in the future].” 

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