The Test

I teach Advanced Placement US History. Normally this course is taken over two semesters in college. The first semester is US History to 1865 and the second semester continues until present. It is worth 6 credits. In high school, 11th grade students take this class over 9 months and take The Test for the entire course. In addition, students also must write three essays, one using 10-12 documents. Obviously it is a very, very hard class. So the 3 hour exam they take in May is referred to as The Test.


We spend 9 months covering more information than is humanly possible to remember. They read, they write, they get corrected and they read and write more. They do not get a break at Christmas, they get two chapters to read. If not, we cannot finish the curriculum before The Test. They must know historical figures and events, authors, painters, treaties, amendments, rise of labor, women’s movement, civil rights, presidential administrations, wars – in other words, there is no limit to the amount of information my students need to know for The Test. It is the most difficult of all College Board Tests.

My students are currently in the auditorium taking The Test. I met them this morning, gave them some snacks and a pep talk. We are all nervous but they are as ready as they ever will be. I told them yesterday that, to me, this class is like giving birth. I try to do everything right by them for 9 months and then the reward is delivered on the second Wednesday of AP testing. They love this analogy.

All in all, my school has about 2 classes of AP qualified students in each grade level. However, I have 92 students in my AP classes, far more than 2 classes.

About 40-45% of my students will pass with a 3 or higher. They are the students who read on a college level, take notes throughout the year, can make connections between events over time, and in general, have a high level of reasoning skills. Depending on the university they attend, they will already have college credits when they enter. It’s a great program for these high achieving students. Some of my students will have completed almost their first 2 years of college before they graduate high school.

About another 40% of my class will score a 2. It is not passing but because they took this class, they are much better prepared for college classes in the future. They have worked really hard to get this score since AP classes are so much harder than the honors or regular classes they have taken.

A smaller number of my students will score a 1. These are kids who were placed incorrectly in my college level class. They read on a middle school level. They cannot read the textbook with any understanding and do not comprehend the numerous high level concepts they need to pass The Test. I feel sorry for these kids because they know they will not pass. I also feel bad because they are not better students since I was teaching and assigning reading that was over their head the entire year.

My students have already finished a multiple choice exam. They had 55 minutes to answer 80 high level questions on everything from Macon’s Bill #2 to naming Washington’s Sec. of War. Currently, they are in the process of writing three essays. The first gives them a question and about 10-12 documents. The other two are just free response questions. They will write for about 2 hours, creating a thesis statement to prove and justifying their position.

About 11:30 I will greet my students as they are leaving the auditorium. Most of them will be elated because the course is over and because they feel good about their progress. Everyone will feel a great weight lifted as they get their life back. They will be very proud of their work and they should be extremely proud.

This is my last AP Exam. These are the days I will miss when I retire.


4 thoughts on “The Test

  1. I taught Higher Level Biology in the International Baccalaureate program for 10 years, from 1987 to 1997. My students took the IB exam AND the AP exam. My classes were small, the kids were capable, and we all worked hard, so most of them did well on the exams. I miss those kids and those days. When I left, one of the reasons was because the program was so demanding I didn’t have time to have a life outside of school. I’ve never regretted coming to JPT, but the way things have gone, I often feel I still don’t have ‘a life’ outside school.

  2. Sheesh, it sounds painful just reading about it! It’s tough being a student, and it must be difficult for you watching them go through all this, and trying to get as many as possible through successfully. How exciting though to be with students who are so capable and intelligent and motivated.

  3. Oh my, how did those “1’s” manage to make it through the year? I hope your kids did stellar on the tests 🙂 My daughter attended Commonwealth Governor’s School here in VA. She started taking AP classes in ninth grade and along with Dual Enrollment class in eleventh grade, she was able to finish college in three years. Some would balk at this and say “no, she needs the whole college experience of four years”, etc. What I never understood was what she would do then? Take fluff classes and have an “easy senior year”? Perhaps study abroad for one semester? What she did was earn five more credits taking classes abroad for six weeks in the summer, and she continued grad. school at the same college so she could still be with her “senior” class friends, redo all of the traditions when she was getting her Master’s Degree and they were getting their Bachelor’s, and she saved me $22K for that last year that I put towards her Grad. year. Why pay for those AP tests (we pay $80-100 per test) and score well, to only pay for more classes in college? Here’s to your final weeks! 🙂

  4. In Florida, the School Board pays for the tests. The number of kids who just put their heads down and sleep through the test is appalling. It’s such a good program. With that and dual, kids can get so far ahead. Glad your daughter took advantage of it.

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