As an honors student, the teachers and counselors in my high school stressed the importance of taking Advanced Placement classes in order to get into the college of my choice. I had all the authority with their high expectations for me breathing down my neck while I chose classes, and my own perfectionist voice in my brain telling me I had to do the absolute most. Thus, I ended up in four AP classes my senior year of high school.
Going into AP classes, teachers always emphasize the importance of doing well on the exam that comes at the end of the course. This exam is supposed to demonstrate your mastery of the subject at hand and is something I take major issue with. It has turned into focusing solely on doing well on the exam and is void of any real focus on actually learning the material.
An example of an AP exam is the English Literature and Composition exam, which consists of 55 multiple choice questions in 60 minutes and three essays in 120 minutes. This is a ridiculous expectation for any high school student, coming from someone who had an A in the class all year, was told by my teacher that I had a head for English, and got only a three on the exam. Although English is a subject that comes naturally to me, I am also someone who works much better when I have time to take care in what I am doing and actually put thought into my work.
Almost all the AP classes I took went down the list of objectives the Collegeboard releases while integrating mass amounts of test prep so we felt "prepared" for the exam in May. I only ever had one teacher who was different: my AP Physics teacher.
Mr. Conte is someone who is very passionate about the concepts he teaches. He has told us that his AP class was more than just what was on the exam and he always took his lessons a step further than he had to. He applied each concept to the greater world and universe and I felt like I truly learned much more in his class than I ever did before. I didn't end up taking the exam, but I left that class feeling curious and motivated to learn more about the world we live in.
Moving forward, AP classes should be about more than just preparing for an exam. You can get college credits from doing well on the exam, so I understand why it is highlighted so much throughout the course. However, I do not believe this is a good system. I loved my Literature class and I did really well in it, but I won't be getting any credit for all the work I put in because I didn't get a high enough score on the exam. How is that fair?
Many other AP students are in the same boat I am. I spent my whole high school career working hard in these college-level classes, but if I didn't get a four or five on the exam, it doesn't even count. All that work was for nothing since most of these classes are driving towards a high score.
Collegeboard, I am reaching out to you. Make AP courses about exploring the subjects at hand, challenging hard-working students, and expanding the mind. It should be less about an exam with time restrictions that aren't reasonable and more about actually learning.
Teachers, this is also a message for you. Don't limit your lessons to what the exam is to hold. Be passionate, like Mr. Conte, and share your knowledge with your students in a way that will inspire them to be more than a number on a piece of paper.