It was the week of AP final exams.
Tension ran high. Blood pressures spiked. Confidence levels dwindled.
Pressure was on.
It is easy to feel unprepared when finals roll around—they have a not-so-funny way of creeping up on students.
In contrast to the high schools of neighboring towns, Staples is the only one whose AP classes require students to take finals in order to prepare for the upcoming AP exam. However, students often feel unprepared for these finals.
To accommodate anxious students, Barnes and Nobles conveniently displays an assortment of AP practice books—“5 Steps to a 5,” “Princeton Review,” and “Barrons” among many of the popular ones—at the front of the store.
Noelle Adler ’15, for example, relied heavily on AP review books to prepare herself for the tests, and even for the classes themselves throughout the year.
“For AP Gov, I used ‘Princeton Review’ during the year because they have great summaries of individual units and practice problems that go along with each,” Adler said.
Michelle Beaudoin ’14, preferred the “Barrons” review book last year to help her prepare for her AP Biology and AP Economics finals.
“It was helpful because it was a way to quickly look at a condensed version of all the material I needed to know for the test,” Beaudoin said.
Due to the extensive amount of material that must to be covered, AP courses follow a relatively rigid curriculum.
Abby Lustig ’15 takes four AP courses and finds that in the classroom, there is a balance between leisurely class activities and structured, efficient lessons.
“We have some days where we have to be on-task the whole period, but there are a bunch of days when we get to relax and don’t study as seriously,” Lustig said.
An AP class’s workload tends to pick up the pace when introducing a new unit, as well as during the days leading up to the unit test. In these blocks of time, it’s easy for students to fall behind.
To grasp new material, Siobhan O’Loughlin ’15 suggested keeping up with each night’s readings and assignments.
O’Loughlin also noted that in comparison to her other classes, AP classes have been more focused and less flexible since the final exams are much earlier.
Because of the time pressure, it’s difficult to learn in-depth about each and every topic that will be covered on the exams. As a result, students, like Lustig and Adler, resort to tutors or self-teaching to develop better understanding of material and to stay on top of their heavy course loads.
“There is a lot of material to be learned pretty in-depth and with not a lot of time to do it,” Adler said. “Mostly everything that was on the AP Chem test was covered in class, but I did some extra work outside of class to fill myself in on a few minor units we didn’t get to cover.”