Accelerated Students: Sophomores in APs

Accelerated Students: Sophomores in APs

(Left to right) Matt Levantin '13, Danielle Frost '13, Jared Eisenberg '13, and Jacob Meisel '13, sophomores in math teacher Gertrude Denton's period 8 AP Statistics class, work on an assignment. | Photo by Emily Kowal '12

AP courses at Staples usually conjure images of upperclassmen slaving away on an endless supply of work. However, what some may not realize is that sophomores are also in on these challenging courses.

“It’s actually not as stressful as one would think,” Danielle Frost ’13, who is in an AP Statistics class, said.

Andrew Cohen ’13 is a sophomores enrolled in AP Biology. He said he is glad he is taking the class at a time when he doesn’t have the stress of other AP classes to wrestle with.

“Bio notoriously has a lot of work associated with it, so I was glad that I took it this year,” he said.

In addition to her interest in math, Frost said that she was aware of the benefits of gaining AP credit early in her high school career.

“Colleges clearly look for an accumulation of APs and I thought it would be good to get a head start as a sophomore,” Frost said.

Joel Kabak, who teaches AP Biology, stated that entering an AP class as a sophomore can be an adjustment, but acknowledges that most sophomores who enter are able to stay in the class.

“An AP course is the first time they’re taking a college level course, so there is a broad scope and its something they’re not accustomed to,” he said. “[But] most of them stay.”

And according to Kabak, not only do they stay, some of them thrive.

“They’re usually the top students in the class,” Kabak said. “They have not developed any of the bad habits that juniors and seniors tend to develop. They are the most attentive and the most on-time with their assignments, and usually get the best AP scores on the exam.”

AP Statistics teacher Gertrude Denton agreed that sophomores are normally successful in her class, and mentioned that it was due, in part, to their previous math courses.

“Generally sophomores do very well,” Denton said. “They’re kids for the most part who’ve taken Algebra 1 Honors as seventh graders so they progress in their math classes from that point [and] have the background to handle a topic like AP statistics.”

Despite this, being in an AP class while having to satisfy the necessary prerequisites for graduating from Staples can be challenging. For example, in classes such as AP Bio, there is a requirement that students take one year of chemistry, which cannot be completed until sophomore year. This means that sophomores have to take the required class alongside the AP course.

“We start off at the beginning of the year with quite a bit of biochemistry and so its very challenging and intimidating,” Kabak said. “But the students often find that after a month or so that the chemistry isn’t as intimidating as it was initially and they’re happy to have had this early experience and have a slight advantage in the chemistry class later on.”

In addition, sophomores have to balance AP’s with another requirement: CAPT testing. Often, AP classes will meet while sophomores are testing to gain some time to review as AP exams approach. However, teachers were ultimately able to accommodate  those sophomores who missed class.

“Dr. Kabak actually handled it really nicely,” Cohen said. “He has a bunch of sophomores in his classes so he scheduled a separate bio review session after school one day in order to allow the kids who weren’t able to attend the one during CAPT to attend the one after school.”

After a year of adjustment and learning in an AP class, Frost, Cohen, and others finally took their AP exams. Cohen felt that the AP exam, compared to the SAT II and the final exam, “was the most difficult of the three.”

Frost prepared extensively for the AP Statistics exam May 11 with “a lot of practice problems.”

It was a long test, but it was very relieving when it was over,” Frost said.

Cohen agrees that getting his AP class out of the way was relieving, and emphasized more how it helped the rest of his high school career.

“Overall, I thought that taking AP Bio as a sophomore was really nice because according to upperclassmen, relative to other APs, it has a lot of work, and I’m glad I didn’t have to balance that work with other AP classes,” Cohen said. “That being said, all of the future classes that I take will seem a lot less stressful because the work load will be dramatically less,” he said.