June 9, 2017

Tis’ the Season of AP Exams


Alissa Lampert ‘18

For most, the month of May is a time of joy, with summer break right around the corner and the warmer weather making everything seem brighter. However, for some juniors, May is a month of panic and stress similar to nothing ever experienced before.
Every year, students around the country take Advanced Placement exams. These tests, also known as AP tests, are designed to reflect the material a student may learn in a preliminary college course so that if a student excels, they can earn credit and place out of certain prerequisite classes for college. Some public schools offer over 20 courses in science, math, humanities and the arts, while GOA offers four: Calculus AB, Spanish Language and Culture, English Literature and Composition and U.S. History.
AP teachers do their best to teach their class according to the most important test information, which requires teaching their students how to write specific types of essays or answer specific multiple choice questions on the exam. However, as prepared as the teachers intend their students to be, stress is unavoidable.
Many 11th grade students are familiar with work-induced breakdowns and panics, but by taking a class which requires a test that can be more daunting than the SAT or ACT, juniors in AP classes can feel even more pressured.
Junior Dina Doctoroff explained that, although AP exams can be considered comparable to a regular final exam, the stress associated with them can be much greater.
“AP exam stress is way worse than midterm stress because with midterms, you have to stop learning new material a bit before you take the tests,” Doctoroff explained. “That's not a luxury we have with APs. AP kids have to keep learning new material in other classes, while still studying for our AP tests.”
Junior Alex Beigelman offered a different point of view.
“AP's are comparable in stress to finals,” he said. “It's a lot more information but it has far less of an effect on your grades, because it doesn't affect them at all.”
Differing levels of preparedness can also make a difference in how pressured students feel.
Junior Lizzie Irwin said she felt well-prepared and as a result, less stressed, from a combination of in-school learning and at home studying and that her teachers’ confidence in her increased her own sense of preparation.
Beigelman, on the other hand, said his “level of preparedness varied from test to test” based on his initial comfort with the topic.
Students in AP classes did note that teachers in their other classes were accommodating to their stress and did make the testing experience better by doing so.
“Here and there due dates were more negotiable, but otherwise [the assessments in other classes] felt very regular,” Irwin commented. She emphasized that teachers do have other students to teach and must continue on with the class, but did their best to help her manage her stress.
Many wonder if the stress associated with the tests is worth it, considering that they do not count for grades and many colleges do not accept certain scores or tests results for credit. When asked if they would consider taking an AP test next year if given the option, Doctoroff and Irwin responded positively, while Beigelman said he would not want to take another. Irwin cited the fact that there are many other courses which were not offered junior year and, “if the course could work itself into the way we do senior year [she] would love to take it on.”

AP tests can create unnecessary amounts of additional stress to the already pressuring junior year experience. Some are helpful to get college credit and opt out of certain classes, but the pressure associated with AP tests can sometimes call into question their necessity and expectations.
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