Teachers, students prepare for upcoming AP exams

April 25, 2019 — by Christine Zhang

Next week and the week after, hundreds of students will be excused from classes to take AP exams in subjects ranging from Biology to Chinese to U.S. History.

Students who have either self-studied or taken classes have been preparing for these exams. Meanwhile, AP course teachers have recently finished teaching the curricula for their classes and have begun to prepare their students for the AP exams.

According to guidance secretary Sarah Christeson, 582 students are taking at least one AP test this year. This number is similar to the ones from the past two years: 562 in 2018 and 599 in 2017. This year, the school is offering 17 different AP tests.

In 2016, the national average for AP enrollment per school, including schools who had students test at other locations, was about 120 students, according to statistics from The College Board.

AP Physics teacher Kirk Davis said that his classes finished the curriculum for AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 a week or two prior to the exams. In preparation for the AP tests, Davis had his students review old material and take a final.

Davis said that he does not administer any separate practice tests for the AP; rather, every unit test throughout the school year has been modeled after the real AP test. He grades unit tests with the AP rubric and also curves his tests in a similar fashion to the AP exam.

After taking his unit tests, students in his classes have had sufficient practice for the AP exam, Davis said.

“There shouldn’t be any shock on the day of the AP,” he said. “You just spend three hours doing what you spend 90 minutes doing on every one of my unit tests.”

After the two AP testing weeks, Davis will assign a build project for his students to demonstrate their knowledge of physics using a real-life application. Other teachers such as AP Computer Science teacher Thomas Wang will also assign projects to be graded, while AP Calculus BC teacher Audrey Warmuth will have a post-AP unit. AP European History teacher Jerry Sheehy will show movies and documentaries.

Sophomore Aileen Liao is taking AP tests in Computer Science, European History and Psychology this year. She self-studied for Psychology and took Computer Science and European History classes at school.

Liao decided to self-study for psychology because she wanted to be able to connect more with people that have mental illnesses.

“I volunteer at hospitals, and I see many patients with mental illnesses who I want to understand better,” she said. “My grandfather was a psychologist as well, and he encouraged me to learn more about psychology.”

Liao is also interested in biology, a subject she closely relates to psychology.

To prepare for the AP Psychology exam, Liao has been studying from the Barron’s AP prep book as well as taking practice tests. She said she chose Barron’s because it was a well-known book that others had recommended. If she does not understand a certain topic, Liao finds videos online to clarify.

For the Computer Science and European History classes, Liao started reading test prep books and taking practice tests over spring break. Since she is in AP Computer Science and AP European History at school, she said that she is mainly focusing on reviewing material from the fall semester for those two subjects.

Liao is aiming for high scores on all her AP tests, but she said she would forgive herself if she doesn’t receive her ideal score.

“Of course I want to do well,” she said. “But if I don’t, I know I tried my best and have a lot of stuff to juggle. I can always take it again next year.”

Although Davis wishes the best for his students taking the AP test, he encourages them to simply enjoy the class and consider skipping the exam under certain circumstances.

“For juniors, I get why you take it, but for seniors, you don’t need it,” Davis said. “Anyone who’s going to be an engineer is going to take physics again in college, and I think they should even if they aren’t required to. The AP is of no value [since students will retake the course in college anyway].”

He said that there are approximately 90 students across all his AP Physics classes, but only about half of them are taking the actual AP test. Davis said that he is perfectly fine with this ratio.

“Sometimes, I don’t think the AP test is the best measure in terms of what you know,” Davis said. “I hope they do well on the test, but it doesn’t really matter in the long run.”