During the first two weeks of May each year, students are invariably stressed by the arrival of Advanced Placement (AP) exams, strictly administered national tests that cover an entire year’s worth of content taught in their respective AP classes.
For most AP classes, the final is often cumulative and spans much of the same material tested on the AP exam. Because of this, many AP teachers opt to have their finals before May to prepare students for the real AP exam. However, several teachers schedule their finals later, in the designated week before the end of the semester. The Campanile thinks all AP classes should have their final before the AP exam.
AP Chemistry teacher Ashwini Avadhani, whose students take three complete mock AP exams before the test and have their best score as their grade on the final, agrees with this sentiment. According to Avadhani, nothing can prepare a student for an exam better than taking a practice exam that simulates the test.
By taking a test that is the same difficulty, length and format, students get a fair idea of what to expect from the AP exam and what they need to focus on while studying. This simulation helps students feel more relaxed and prepared on the AP exam test day.
Additionally, having the final before the AP exam can reduce stress for students, since taking class finals earlier would lighten the workload on students in May.
However, The Campanile does understand scheduling the final before the AP exam may not always be possible. According to AP Calculus BC teacher David Peters, with the new alternating block schedule, he sees his class fewer times in the year. As a result of this schedule, there are only six review days before the AP test, making it nearly impossible to finish teaching all the content, review for the AP test and fit a final exam in before the AP test.
According to Peters, reviewing material that will be tested is just as important as actually practicing for the format of the test. For this reason, during the review days, Peters’ class solves AP problems from the past six years that cover a wide variety of concepts and question formats. Given the time restraints, The Campanile appreciates these efforts to maximize review that is relevant and practical for the students.
Ultimately, Peters said the order of the tests should not really matter, and taking the final first is not necessarily going to be the best way to prepare for the AP test. The tight schedule only adds to the case for having the final after the AP exam, since Peters said there is no time to schedule a final into the six review days without taking away from the crucial and limited time students get to review with their teachers.
Another issue with having finals earlier is keeping students focused and motivated in class. AP Spanish teacher Kevin Duffy has his final exam after the AP test because he said it is difficult for many students to stay on task in class without a looming final to impact their grade.
However, The Campanile thinks that after months of studying and preparation for AP exams, students deserve a chance to catch their breaths. Teachers should also trust students’ work ethic and ability to cooperate. It is not fair to subject everyone to the added stress of finals under the presumption that a few students will be disruptive. If teachers want to continue student learning, they could do so through other means, such as assessments and final projects. At the same time, it is on the students to respect this trust and privilege and continue to pay attention in class in an attempt to actively learn.
The issue of when the final in AP classes takes place is a significant one. The Campanile thinks having the final before the AP exam is most beneficial to students, both academically and for their mental health, and urges AP teachers to consider making space in their class schedule to administer their final before the AP test.