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The school year in Japan is divided into three terms. The first term lasts from April to July, the second from September to December, and the third from January to March. There are final exams at the end of each term. There are also midterm exams in the first and second terms but not in the third, which is shorter than the other two.
Seventh graders who entered middle school in April face a number of midterm exams in late May. Tests are usually held in Japanese, mathematics, science, social studies, and English.
A week before midterms, all club and other extracurricular activities are cancelled so that students can concentrate on preparing for the tests. Tension grows as test day approaches. Instead of hanging around school after classes are over, students rush home to study. Some kids study with friends, teaching each other things that are hard to understand.
The results of the midterm exams and the end-of-term exams have a big bearing on the grade one gets for the term, which in turn becomes a major factor in choosing which high schools to apply for. That's the reason middle-school students, especially eighth and ninth graders, take these midterm exams seriously.