Besides delving into subjects, AP classes should also prepare students for the test

May 18, 2017 — by Alex Yang

The sound of pens clicking and nervous groans can be heard every year when May and the dreaded fortnight of AP testing season come around the corner.

The fact that there is usually a test or final exam tacked on at the end of April for most AP classes is stressful enough; however, when some classes don’t even emphasize year-round preparation for their respective AP tests, students stress even more over the actual exams.

There has always been an argument against a pure test-prep class: When a student signs up for an AP class, they should do so because they are passionate about the subject, not because they need to pad their GPA.

However, it might not be necessary to make a completely test-prep based class. Instead, while going over materials, more teachers should emphasize what is likely to be on the test and what is most important to know.

Also, this narrow-minded outlook on the issue doesn’t take into account that doing well on the AP test is almost always a confirmation that the student thoroughly understands the subject.

Thus, if a class at least makes an effort to prioritize the AP test, students will still be able to learn the material effectively while making sure they understand the format of the test and feel less anxiety.

In fact, some classes, like AP United States History (APUSH), are already significantly more focused on the AP test aspect than other AP classes. Through activities emulating mini-AP tests like constant essay practice, APUSH is clearly an AP prep-focused class. Other classes, however, such as AP Computer Science, opt to have a focus on a different course curriculum rather than the May test. In APCS, students learn concepts like stacks and queues that aren’t on the AP test but are vital to those wanting a strong foundation in the subject.

Because of this somewhat unbalanced level of test prep among AP classes, a large problem and the root of most student stress with AP tests is created: the self-studying students feel obliged to do.

It’s no secret that many of the students who plan to take AP tests have to buy a mountain of Barron’s test prep books to feel confident. Even if Saratoga High’s passing rate for nearly all AP tests is extraordinarily high, it might be wishful thinking to credit all of that success to just the AP classes themselves.

While it could be argued that some classes are more explicitly geared toward test prep, it might be both more effective and more reassuring for students if teachers were more upfront with their AP test prep. By doing this, students might feel more prepared just because of the psychological impact of knowing that they’ve done significant practice beforehand.

Although some students wish to not only learn skills necessary to do well on the AP test but to also do activities in class like simulations in APUSH, there isn’t always a correlation between test prep and activities in the classes. One of the biggest keys to success in a college-level course often is reading and doing skill-based homework.

While some prefer simulation-style activities, a lot of the time teachers use simulations to warm students up to new material, not to actually give information.

A full score on the exam results in a lot of good things: approval from your parents, a confirmation that all the tears you shed over the course of the year were worth it and last, but probably least important to the average stressed out high schooler, actual college credit.

AP testing season is undoubtedly a stressful time for students taking AP tests. Making it so they know what they’re doing before walking into the library to sit for their next mind-numbing standardized exam might not be a terrible idea.

 

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