Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Innisfree

Have AP tests gotten harder?

Recommended Posts

Talk to me about AP tests and classes.

Many years ago, in the '80s, I was in a very good high school which did not have a single class labeled AP. We took four years of English, and then some of us took the AP exams, and a reasonable percentage did quite well. Same idea for other subjects, though I don't think there were as many subjects offered as now.

I look at what Dd16 is doing in AP Latin, and has done in other AP classes, and I'm not delighted. The whole class seems to be teaching to the test. This seems like a fundamental shift. Am I misremembering? It seems like the philosophy used to be that a good student, in a good class, would simply have mastered this material. We were tested without all the constant practicing of particular forms; it was just a sort of summary test of our general mastery.

Have the AP tests gotten so much harder that this approach is really necessary? What's up with it? I'm not entirely convinced of the pedagogical value.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry the focus of your AP course is a disappointment.

Don't know specifically about AP tests, but "teaching to the test" has been the approach in K-12 grades of school systems with regard to standardized tests for the past 2 decades (according to some of my school teacher friends, and what I've seen of my now-adult nieces and nephews who went to public schools).

Alongside with that mentality, I would not be surprised if, what with the downturn in the economy and the skyrocketing costs of college over the last 10-15 years, a lot of people are feeling tremendous pressure for their high school students to ace a lot of AP tests in order to earn college credit (to help reduce overall time -- and thus cost -- of college). And to help land scholarships.

Edited by Lori D.
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My impression, which may be wrong, from reading some recent posts on WTM, and from the School Fair we attended during May 2018, is that many College/University Admissions people are not impressed by AP courses on a Transcript.  One reason for that is probably the huge variation in the quality of the instruction given to the students.  DE courses from a CC may be in the same boat, but not sinking like AP courses.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my experience, colleges are impressed with AP classes on the transcript provided they are accompanied with a corresponding high test score.  However, I don't think all AP classes are considered to be at the same level by colleges - AP geography is not viewed in the same light as AP Chemistry for example. 

I  also don't think it is necessary to teach to the test.  My kids have done very well on our home brewed AP classes which have no busywork and are not focused on test prep.  

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Don't know specifically about AP tests, but "teaching to the test" has been the approach in K-12 grades of school systems with regard to standardized tests for the past 2 decades (according to some of my school teacher friends, and what I've seen of my now-adult nieces and nephews who went to public schools).

 

Not only the schools (public and private) but also the online course providers are feeling the stress of producing good AP exam scores. People were quoting the AP exam grades profile of the course providers (PAH and Blue Tent) in the 2018 AP exam thread (https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/672895-2018-ap-thread/?page=3).

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Arcadia said:

 

Not only the schools (public and private) but also the online course providers are feeling the stress of producing good AP exam scores. People were quoting the AP exam grades profile of the course providers (PAH and Blue Tent) in the 2018 AP exam thread (https://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/672895-2018-ap-thread/?page=3).

 

 

FWIW, I think the exam starts comparison is a little misleading. 

Many districts no longer offer an honors track other than AP coursework. So you either take regular track or AP. The desire to keep up with college bound peers and take courses that are weighted mean that students may end up in AP courses who weren't quite there yet.

Many districts require AP students to take the exam. Students who don't think they will score well, know they won't get credit even for a 5 (based on the policy of the college they will attend), or who are prioritizing an exam that really matters to them may not make the most effort on their tests.  

Some schools also have a policy of encouraging or requiring all students to take an AP course in high school. The philosophy is that even a student who scores poorly will learn a lot and be better prepared for college work. (I dont agree completely, but the policy exists.)

I think homeschool students who take AP courses are more self selecting towards students who are ready for that level. I also think their parents tend to be involved in ensuring they are prepared for the exam.

When I look at the requirements for AP History exams, they aren't that different in the level of mastery from what I remember taking in the 1980s. The biggest difference is in the multiple choice format, which now includes reading sections that the questions are based on. 

There is a very specific rubric for the essays. Students get points for specific elements, but only 1-2 points per element. There are no points for work done well that is outside the rubric, so teachers spend a lot of time on the rubric.

There is also a lot of material to cover.  I think there is pressure to ensure every last thing was discussed.  

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

FWIW, I think the exam starts comparison is a little misleading. 

 

Just to clarify, I wasn’t comparing public and private schools exam statistics to course providers.  I was commenting that parents “shopping” for AP course providers is likely to look at the exam statistics. That indirectly puts pressure on the course providers to prep the students for the exam. 

ETA:

Edhesive AP Computer Science A course price hike from $150 to $550 after a few years of producing good exam results. The course might have improved tremendously but the price hike is substantial too. Both my kids took the course when it was $150. 

Edited by Arcadia
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In our district you can sleep through the AP test but get a significant bump in GPA because the AP class itself is weighted. Further, the school itself is ranked on “AP participation rate” not AP scores. I know this doesn’t answer your question on hardness (I don’t know what to compare to since I never went to high school in this country.).

It’s possible to take a proper, non AP class and take the AP exam, private school kids do it all the time, because many selective high schools don’t offer AP. 

For online providers, because they don’t have the same calculations as brick and mortar schools, it makes sense they do more test prep.. so maybe the exam hasn’t gotten harder, it’s just online providers care more about the exam that schools do.

Edited by madteaparty
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dd#1 doesn't want to take the AP Calc exam. I'm not even sure I could find her a seat (and the new register-in-the-fall trick the CB is starting to require is making it harder to find a seat, IMO).

The class she is taking will spend the last six weeks before the AP exam practicing AP problems. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do, but I may make her keep covering content in the book instead. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, RootAnn said:

The class she is taking will spend the last six weeks before the AP exam practicing AP problems. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do, but I may make her keep covering content in the book instead. 

 

Assuming that your daughter would have a few college acceptances by mid March, I would look up which textbooks they are using for Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 and revise from one of those textbooks.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know some kids at church who are taking AP classes and they seem to be a massive amount of work.  On the other hand, I know a student at our co-op who took 2 AP tests this year after taking our co-op classes (which are intended to be challenging, maybe an advanced high school level, but definitely not AP) and got a 3 on one and a 4 on the other.  I'm sure that this student did plenty of independent study, since there are topics that are listed as being on the AP exam that aren't covered in the co-op classes, but my impression would be that if you added the hours that the student spent on co-op class and independent study, it wouldn't be the same as the time that it takes to manage the public school AP classes. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Arcadia said:

 

Just to clarify, I wasn’t comparing public and private schools exam statistics to course providers.  I was commenting that parents “shopping” for AP course providers is likely to look at the exam statistics. That indirectly puts pressure on the course providers to prep the students for the exam. 

ETA:

Edhesive AP Computer Science A course price hike from $150 to $550 after a few years of producing good exam results. The course might have improved tremendously but the price hike is substantial too. Both my kids took the course when it was $150. 

 

The exam score stats I've seen tend to compare the provider with national averages. I just have a little heartburn with this comparison.

There is also pressure at schools to stay close to exam content. There are rankings of schools that depend mightily on AP results.  And there are parents who aren't going to be content that their kid learned a lot that wasn't tested unless they also score well on the exam.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can speak most clearly about the history tests just because I took them back in the day and taught history for a bit... I don't think they've gotten harder, but they have changed and become a bit less straightforward and a bit more game-able, if that makes sense. Back in the day, in the 80's and early 90's, when most of us were in school, the AP Euro test was very, very driven by memorizing a large, set body of information. It was an astounding amount of information, but it was also relatively straightforward. Know it and have decent practice doing DBQ's and timed essays and you'd 4 or 5 the test. Now, there's still a staggering amount of information, but there's also a greater emphasis on that critical thinking, big questions thing. So the scores are a bit harder to nail down because that "critical thinking" stuff can have to do with these themes and so forth and all of that is less set in memorizing.

They were always teaching to the test. But as the test has become, for lack of a better word, more "test-ish", schools have had to work harder to push the test taking end to give students an edge. I think this is really across the board in the humanities and social science tests from what I can tell. So it probably feels more like teaching to the test. Back in the day, in AP classes, I rarely felt like I was in a test prep class. But having come at it from the teaching end, I can see the ways in which I actually was. I think part of the testing strategy now is to be even more explicit about this at every step.

AP's are... I mean, a mixed bag. I think they're a bit of a catch-22 for students to some extent. I think it's correct that colleges are growing less impressed by them because so many students now come in with so many of them. But if you don't have them and everyone else in your region does, then it's no good either. 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, NCAmusings said:

 He enjoys the content, wants to persevere and get a good grade, but he’s doubtful of what the future assignments may bring. What would you do? 

 

Let him keep the class. Programming classes tends to run this way. I’ll explain more later. Have to get my kids to German school.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience was similar to OP. I graduated high school in 1987. By senior year, all our honors classes were called AP instead, but none of them taught to the test and most students didn't take any AP tests. I didn't really study for them at all, and I took the Bio, Spanish, English, and one more that I can't remember. I think I got 1 4 and the rest 5s. I placed out of several first year classes in college, but it was exactly 0 amount more work for me than just taking the classes. Just from what I've read and heard about nowadays, that doesn't seem normal. Perhaps it wasn't normal back then either, but that was my personal experience.

For my high school student, we are more interested in creating classes that interest her than ones that align with the AP tests. Neither of us plan to consider them at all. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My impression is that AP classes around here are piles and piles of work with the goal of forcing kids to be able to score decently on the test (usually there are mostly 3’s and 4’s) without having to actually understand the content. I am very convinced that DD’s cheer teammate is spending more time on APUSH than DD is spending on college honors western civilizations,  research techniques and writing, And  statistics (for science majors) put together. DD will get 9 college credits towards her associates, and all three classes will apply to her bachelors if she stays in-state (and possibly out of state). Her friend will get 3 credits if she manages to get the score whatever college she wants requires. And a lot of her friend’s assignments are truly pointless and seem like busywork.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, NCAmusings said:

 

 

This is regarding programming classes. Both my kids took the Edhesive course and the AP computer science A exam in 2017. DS13 is taking a C and Java course at UCSC extension now as a hobby (non-credit).

Typically classes go over the new syntax and logic, show a few good examples, show a few bad coding examples and explain why they are bad, then let the kids loose on the homework. That’s where the classroom forum comes in and usually the instructors and teacher assistants would monitor. 

Some kids learn mainly by doing like my DS13 who gets bored reading books on programming. He relies on stackexchange (website) as well as class forums. DS12 learn by examples so he don’t mind reading many books and see examples of clean codes. Some does both. 

As for the AP Computer Science A exam, my kids went over the past year FRQs on CollegeBoard to figure out the grading rubrics. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, deerforest said:

My experience was similar to OP. I graduated high school in 1987. By senior year, all our honors classes were called AP instead, but none of them taught to the test and most students didn't take any AP tests. I didn't really study for them at all, and I took the Bio, Spanish, English, and one more that I can't remember. I think I got 1 4 and the rest 5s. I placed out of several first year classes in college, but it was exactly 0 amount more work for me than just taking the classes. Just from what I've read and heard about nowadays, that doesn't seem normal. Perhaps it wasn't normal back then either, but that was my personal experience.

For my high school student, we are more interested in creating classes that interest her than ones that align with the AP tests. Neither of us plan to consider them at all. 

Yes! This, exactly, was my experience. Maybe from my teachers' points of view there was already teaching to the test, but from my point of view it was invisible. The classes were just like the classes from grades 9-11, and no one really thought about taking the APs until spring. Zero extra work. I graduated hs in 1984, fwiw. 

7 hours ago, dmmetler said:

My impression is that AP classes around here are piles and piles of work with the goal of forcing kids to be able to score decently on the test (usually there are mostly 3’s and 4’s) without having to actually understand the content. I am very convinced that DD’s cheer teammate is spending more time on APUSH than DD is spending on college honors western civilizations,  research techniques and writing, And  statistics (for science majors) put together. DD will get 9 college credits towards her associates, and all three classes will apply to her bachelors if she stays in-state (and possibly out of state). Her friend will get 3 credits if she manages to get the score whatever college she wants requires. And a lot of her friend’s assignments are truly pointless and seem like busywork.

And *this* is like dd's experience. The AP course is taking about three times more time than the two actual college courses she's in combined. Things like peer reviews eat up a lot of time and seem like busywork to me, though I'm sure there is some learning from the process.

i appreciate hearing all of your experiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

Maybe from my teachers' points of view there was already teaching to the test, but from my point of view it was invisible. The classes were just like the classes from grades 9-11, and no one really thought about taking the APs until spring. Zero extra work. 

 

My older kid took AP economics (macro and micro) in summer as well as AP Statistics at a brick and mortar private school. There was no mention of AP exams even though the teachers obviously covered the AP syllabus. Only after the final subject exam did the teachers let the kids know that if they want to take the AP exams in 2019, there is a free (bundled already into course fees) revision session in April. 

He also took AP Chemistry and AP Physics C last year and the exam in May 2018. The teachers did mentioned now and then about something not being in the scope of exam but welcomed to read at leisure. There is test prep interwoven into the course and it is obvious to seasoned test takers but not in your face obvious. For example if 20 multiple choice questions are typical per week as part of homework, it is not obvious that the 20 comes from a test bank of past year questions or test prep materials. However if a child has done any SAT subject test, the multiple choice portion of the homework does resembles test prep books. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...