How WJ is adjusting to new AP tests

Following school closures resulting from the Coronavirus Pandemic, the CollegeBoard changed their Advanced Placement test format, forcing teachers and students to rapidly pivot.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Following school closures resulting from the Coronavirus Pandemic, the CollegeBoard changed their Advanced Placement test format, forcing teachers and students to rapidly pivot.

To help students and families affected by the Coronavirus, the College Board on March 20 announced a new format for AP tests, the multi-hour exams that many students take each May. The updated tests are 45 minutes long, do not include a multiple-choice section and can be taken at home.

AP US History teacher Kathy Simmons has been watching webinars from the College Board to understand the changes to the exam and learn about the new resources provided to teachers and students.

“The learning curve for me can be steep at first, but I am enjoying learning about new ways to help students,” Simmons said.

Simmons also said that she is planning on using some of the things she is doing now, like recording screencasts to help students once school eventually reopens.

Junior Leo Bourke, who is in four AP classes, said he likes the new format because they are shorter than the old version.

“You can type it, [which also] makes it much easier,” Bourke said.

However, he said if you normally rely on the multiple-choice section to boost your score, “you’re in trouble.”

Ian Matthews, an AP English Language and Composition teacher, is not too worried about the updated exam for his course.

“This year’s test will be just a single part of the usual one, rather than something new, so there’s not a lot of adjustment in terms of content on our end,” he said.

Matthews is more concerned with how to provide his students learning and review materials solely online.

Sophie Cooksey, a junior, said her teachers are doing a very good job dealing with their students.

“Something like this is unprecedented. Considering the circumstances, I think that the teachers are being as accommodating and flexible as possible,” she said.

Matthews said the College Board has been very supportive with review materials like their AP YouTube channel.

“The only thing I’d really like from them at the moment is a little more clarity about how the exam will actually be administered,” he said.

Bourke said his teachers have mostly done a good job adjusting to the situation. His favorite content from his teachers so far are review activities on Zoom and screencasts posted on Loom.

However, Bourke noted that it is still hard for students to motivate themselves to self-study.

AP Physics C teacher Adam Zeitlin also said that many students are not motivated.

“The difficulty of organizing students is one I had expected to face with the end of senior year and AP exams regardless, but without attendance and meaningful grades, it is impossible to hold a live class with full student participation,” he said.

WJ Principal Jennifer Baker said the school is not taking attendance “in the traditional manner,” so there is no data on how many students are attending online sessions.

Zeitlin, like Matthews and Simmons, has been using materials from the College Board in his classes.

“I am impressed with their logistical operations,” he said. Zeitlin advises all students in an AP course to check out their YouTube channel.

On the more local response, Zeitlin said: “While I do not believe MCPS is doing a particularly bad job, I am unimpressed with their actions given the amount of prestige they like to tout.”

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