Exams: How Do Freshmen Feel?


According to the Encyclopedia Britannica article on motivation, pressure and performance follow an “inverted U” function; as pressure goes up, so does performance—but only to a certain point. Beyond that point, an increase in pressure causes performance to drop. This seems to say that there can be good, productive stress, as well as bad, hectic stress, and that the key to good stress is that the challenge be something you can manage, even master.

Pressure, performance, and the relationship between them become particularly important during exam season, when stress is prevalent in the student body. The freshmen class, new to Milton exams, is particularly apprehensive about what to expect.

When freshmen were asked how they feel about exam week on a scale of one to ten—one being nervous and ten being confident—the average response was around four, and nearly fifty percent of freshmen answered for stress levels between one and three, indicating a lot of nerves. However, this also means that about fifty percent of students answered above four, showing that while many stress about exams, a good number also feel fine. When asked about their feelings towards exams, gave responses ranging from, “I want to die,” to, “I could do it sleeping.”

To some, it could be surprising that more than 40% of freshmen placed themselves as a five or above on confidence regarding exams. This somewhat mellow outlook could be caused by the decision to not report freshman grades—one reason the grades were nulled was to help reduce stress, and students seem to be reaping the benefits. Instead of panicking and over-studying, freshmen can relax and take a breath.

However, most don’t disregard the apprehension. Many expressed feeling like they’re struggling to keep up with coursework, especially after forgetting material during vacation. Others discussed how, even though they may feel fine themselves, the environment of being around other tense people can make stress inescapable.

Milton has been making efforts to reduce stress around campus, especially around exams, but regardless of the changes the administration, teachers, or students make, exam week will always be a time of strain. But this crunch period is not necessarily bad. While stress and mental health absolutely need to be addressed and reducing stress is a positive thing, some think that stress can be motivating. If there was no pressure associated with exams, it’s possible no one would bother to study. The freshman class seems to reflect that case with a level of healthy confidence paired with some healthy pressure, exams can feel manageable.

Milton Paper