To Test or Not To Test?: Students Weigh Benefits of AP Exams

March 23, 2011 • 1 views
Filed under News

Claire O’Halloran ’13 and Alexandra O’Kane ’13

Web Opinions Editor and Staff Writer

Many students are beginning to study for AP exams which are held in May. | Photo by Alexandra O'Kane '13

AP testing has both its pros and cons.  While students can receive college credit for scoring at least a three out of a possible five, the three hour exam can also be a burden. Thus, students have the choice of whether or not to take the test. However, many Staples teachers encourage their students to take the AP test, as they believe it is beneficial.

According to English teacher Julia McNamee, the AP Language and Composition test “allows students to develop their own skills through writing.”

The AP Language test is a little over three hours long, and consists of three essays in addition to a multiple choice section. The students in AP classes spend much time preparing for the final exam, and McNamee even refers to the few weeks before the test as “AP boot camp.”

Similarly, science teacher Michael Aitkenhead has been preparing his AP Environmental students all year for the test, which also incorporates multiple choice and essays.

In both classes, all students are encouraged to take the test.  In fact, Aitkenhead has a system where if students don’t take the AP exam, it is required that they take an extended final.

“It is my expectation that all the students will have the experience of sitting through a three hour test which involves essays,” Aitkenhead said. “If you choose not to take the AP exam, well, that doesn’t exclude you in my mind from having to go through the experience of a three hour test with essays.  So, you take the essays with me instead.”

While Aitkenhead has students experience the test even if they chose not to take it, McNamee leaves it up to the students on whether or not they want the experience.

McNamee tells her students, “As a teacher, what you do reflects on me so I would ask students whether or not you should take it. However as a parent, I think you should take it because there is nothing to lose.”

When students asked her whom they should listen to, the teacher or parent, McNamee answered saying, students should listen to parent’s advice, because parents have their kids best interests in mind.

The test includes many benefits for students because if the student does well, it can earn students college credit as well as allowing colleges to see that the student got a good grade on a nationally graded test.

“I actually don’t know of anybody who is not planning on taking it,” AP Language student Max Gibson ’12 said.

Classes spend a long time preparing for the exam, and at the beginning of each year, Aitkenhead tells students that if they take the course, they are expected to take the exam.

Although there are benefits, AP tests are no easy task.  They go hand in hand with stress, and when students take more than one AP, the test can become even more of a burden.

“Based on how many tests you have, [testing week] is very stressful,” McNamee said.  “Classes become spotty and attendance is weird because of them.”

However, throughout the entire school year, AP students prepare for the tests so when they come, it is no surprise. “I’d say my exams are even a little more challenging than the AP exam.  Many students leave the AP exam saying it was easier than they expected,” Aikenhead said. I relate it to coaching a runner. If they run 10 miles in practice, a one mile race on race day, seems like a walk in the park.

“The class definitely teaches to the AP test, but that isn’t a bad thing at all,” Gibson said. “Working on practice essays has strengthened my writing in a variety of areas and taught me how to think critically quickly. We also do a lot of in-class essays, and we have done a few of the multiple choice reading comprehension sections, too.”

While much of the class is focused on preparing for the AP exam, McNamee stresses that it is not the only goal of the class. “The aspects that the exams focuses on are right at the heart of English, so it is very important,” McNamee said.

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