Weston Warhorse

The Aftermath of APs

Reviews of Some of the Most Common AP Courses and Their Exams

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Catrin Zharry, Assistant Editor-in-Chief

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For many juniors and seniors, the first two weeks of May were a whirlwind of hastily-made study guides, prep books, No.2 pencils, and intimidating instructions by the College Board as Weston High School became a center for the notorious AP testing. For juniors, taking AP tests was one of the last chances to achieve high standardized test grades to show to colleges in the fall. For seniors, a good AP test grade was not as paramount because most have been accepted by and have committed to a college by early May; nevertheless, a passing grade could be a valuable way to gain exemption from some introductory courses.
As the school year wore on, the inevitability of the nerve-racking tests was felt stronger and stronger; teachers rushed to get through the necessary course material and students struggled with balancing already heavy responsibilities with preparing for the AP tests. Most juniors and seniors were not strangers to standardized testing, however, considering they had taken the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and possibly SAT Subject Tests before. Regardless, early May was definitely a laborious hurdle to jump over, especially for seniors who were just days away from leaving for their internships.
Weston High School teachers were praised by students all around for preparing them well for the AP tests. On the AP Statistics exam, Dan Curtis ‘18 says, “Ms Caracciolo was awesome—I felt extremely prepared for the AP exam. She spent the whole year educating us on exactly what would be on the exam and gave us lots of practice and review. I really enjoyed the class overall; Ms. Caracciolo definitely makes the class interesting and fun at the same time!” He recommends the course to everyone “willing to put the effort in,” and believes all have the potential to do well on the exam with Ms.Caracciolo’s help.
Similarly, junior Doran Sekaran emphasizes that AP Computer Science is a class that requires a lot of hard work on behalf of the students who wish to do well. He says his class was “a particularly motivated group, but even still, I believe Mrs. Reens did a good job preparing us. The test was really not that bad. However, I believe that was not because it was inherently easy, but rather because my peers and I prepared a ton. The class IS NOT a slack off class, but if you’re a motivated student, you will have fun and do well.”
No matter the amount of preparation, certainly no AP exam was easy. One course and test that many students are taught to be wary of is AP Chemistry. Steven Dampf, a senior, says “Before taking the course I heard from many people that both the course in school and the AP exam itself were extremely difficult but I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone made it out to be. I thought the AP exam was pretty reasonable. I felt pretty prepared for the test because of Ms. Cole. The material itself was mostly things I already knew from class.” Like Sekaran, Dampf adds that success in the class and on the test relies on determination and dedication to studying the material.
AP Biology, the most popular AP science course at school, had mixed reviews. Samantha Kim ‘19 believes the exam was difficult for slow workers, making it easy to run out of time on both the multiple choice and free response sections. “I always struggled in Bio with the content because it was very conceptual rather than being able to memorize everything,” she says. “Despite these things, I still enjoyed the class and felt like I learned a lot of new things this year.”
Drew Berkin ‘19 underscores the importance of checking one’s over-confidence before the exam. The AP Psychology test “wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be,” he says. However, he says, “Overall I really enjoyed the material and the class as a whole. I would recommend this course to anyone who might be interested, as it is very unique material that I found to be quite interesting.”
Mrs. Swezey, who teaches the course, says, “As an AP teacher, the test is a key focus of the entire course. From the first day of class, I build my lessons around the curriculum that is created by the College Board. This curriculum guides the AP test creation. My hope is that all the students taking the course will take the exam and of course, earn college credit in the course.”
On stress surrounding the exam and the best way to prepare, she adds, “The pressure that one experiences on the day of the exams is an unfortunate reality of the situation. The idea that an entire school year of learning is riding upon the performance on one exam is daunting and hard to ignore when you are walking in the test room. The best thing that teachers and students can do is prepare all year for the exam and not just review at the end of the course. I try to create all AP-like multiple choice and free response questions on every exam so that once the students sit for the real exam the questions are familiar and they feel calm and comfortable. Through extended repetition and rehearsal, students should be more than ready come test day.”
I can personally attest to the immense help that Mrs. Swezey’s strategies, including many practice tests, were in preparing me well for the AP Psych exam.
Besides the academic preparation, enjoying the class seems to have been an essential factor in students’ general confidence in the AP course material as well. Adam Levin ‘19 notes that a great amount of practice DBQs, short answer questions, and multiple choice quizzes, in addition to the high engagement of the activities done in his AP U.S. History class (amiably shortened to APUSH by its students), really helped him succeed. “While we do have to take an AP test in May, the class itself involves fun activities and work that help make the learning of American history exciting. One activity that was especially fun was a simulation where we got to pretend we were historical figures and argued over issues during our characters time period. This activity highlights not just the enjoyment of the class but actually how exciting it was to learn about our nation’s history.”
Caiti Levin ‘19 adds that doing practice writing and speaking activities was also highly important in preparing her AP French class for its exam. “I knew that the test was going to be hard because it’s basically asking us to do some of the things we do in our English classes, especially with the reading-based questions, and writing a persuasive essay, but I thought Madame did a great job at preparing us! We did a lot of practice speaking, and worked a lot on learning and memorizing phrases that we can say or write that will make us sound really comfortable with the language.”
The semester-long AP courses that Weston High School offers include AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP Microeconomics, and AP Macroeconomics. The AP tests for these classes can be particularly stressful if the class was taken first semester, since the test is several months after it ends. Eliza Maestri ‘19 took AP Gov first semester this school year, but believes the months between the class and the test did not weigh her down with extra studying as much as she expected it would. “I was nervous about taking it first semester and having all the time in between the class and the exam, but didn’t find that to be an issue.” She reports that she felt “extremely prepared” for the exam. “Mr. Moeder did a really, really, great job teaching us everything we needed to know in a short amount of time and his class was entertaining and something I looked forward to on a daily basis.”
Jane Avery ‘19 took both AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. She reports that Macroeconomics was easier than Microeconomics, and that the AP Macro test was surprisingly easy. She recommends the courses tremendously: “It was a small class environment, which is really nice to have in a couple of your classes for freedom of participation purposes if you get a little nervous just blurting out your questions…there aren’t as many people to ‘judge you’ and overall it was just taught really well.”
The general consensus on the difficulty of AP courses and exams is that it depends upon the immersion in the subject the classroom provides, the time taken outside of class to study, and the effectiveness of the teacher. Luckily Weston High School seems to have many students and teachers who put in the work to lead us to success. Even if we don’t achieve what we hope to on standardized tests, one thing our generation can always look forward to is the memes that are born from their sometimes outrageous content. (But shh! Don’t tell the College Board!)

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