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Dialectic: AP Tests

Though+the+College+Board+devised+the+AP+in+the+hopes+of+providing+college-level+curricula+to+high+schoolers%2C+many+teachers+and+students+are+skeptical+that+they+achieve+this+end.+How+does+the+AP+hold+up+under+scrutiny%3F
Though the College Board devised the AP in the hopes of providing college-level curricula to high schoolers, many teachers and students are skeptical that they achieve this end. How does the AP hold up under scrutiny?

Though the College Board devised the AP in the hopes of providing college-level curricula to high schoolers, many teachers and students are skeptical that they achieve this end. How does the AP hold up under scrutiny?

Nicole Chen

Nicole Chen

Though the College Board devised the AP in the hopes of providing college-level curricula to high schoolers, many teachers and students are skeptical that they achieve this end. How does the AP hold up under scrutiny?

by Nicole Chen and Karina Chen

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Winged Post: At Harker, many students choose to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Are AP classes really college-level courses?

Karina: Yes, they should be considered college-level courses. For instance, credits students have achieved from taking College Board AP examinations can be used to fulfill graduation requirements in University of California schools. Other universities in the nation have similar policies regarding AP credits as well.

Nicole: That’s a fair point; however, there’s been significant debate over whether these courses carry the amount of content and depth that university level classes do. According to an Atlantic article written by a previous high school teacher and college professor, “the high-school AP course didn’t begin to hold a candle to any of [his] college courses. [His] colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.”

Winged Post: How realistically can the the AP test itself measure a student’s understanding of the course materials?

Karina: AP courses are meant to accelerate and advance students’ knowledge in a particular subject. Because of this, AP exams have to cover a broad range of topics to make sure students are well-rounded in the particular field.

Nicole: That makes sense, but if we look at the AP history exams, for example, students are expected to complete a five-paragraph essay in 40 minutes, which is just unreasonable. In addition, suppose a student was having a particularly bad day on the test day or the completely-random essay topic was one they weren’t especially familiar with, their scores might not reflect their knowledge.

Winged Post: But, without AP classes, can universities accurately evaluate a particular student’s merit?

Karina: According to College Board, 85 percent of colleges and universities reported that they look at a student’s AP courses when making admission decisions. Without APs, there are many factors that play into the school-central GPA that universities look at. Grade inflation and the different ways teachers evaluate students can influence a student’s grade significantly. With APs, however, tests are standardized and teachers are not able to impact students’ outcomes.

Nicole: While APs is a common form of high school standardized testing, I think the college admissions process can remain fair without it. SAT and ACT tests are a way to evaluate a student’s caliber in a specific subject without the AP’s fake sense of college readiness.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on March 6, 2018.

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