Students Reflect on Advanced Placement Courses
By Jemima Schoen
Published in the June 3, 2022 Issue.
Another season of Advanced Placement (AP) courses has come and gone. Students had varying experiences but ultimately powered through. In examining the testing and preparation process, students note that, while there are definite difficulties when it comes to AP’s, the right combination of self-study, utilizing teachers, and confidence in one’s own abilities can breed success and a feeling of fulfillment.
One of perhaps the most oft-cited contributors to the difficulty of AP classes is the volume of coursework. To successfully complete these courses, students cover collegiate material and develop university-level skills, so naturally, this can be challenging for many high school students. Sophomore Natanel Gold’s experience has reflected this. “There are times where I definitely do get like a lot of work, especially AP Lang,” he said. Reviewing the material can be a revelatory experience: “As soon as I start studying, I’m realizing ‘Oh, wow, this is like a lot of work.’ And it’s definitely more than you expect.” Natanel deals with this by “putting in large amounts of work and effort.”
Natanel expounded on this point, saying that, in fact, his biggest lesson and takeaway from his AP experience was to “review more often.” He even laid out a possible method: “Every time you finish a unit, just go over [the material] maybe once or a couple of times throughout the year.” He also recommended his method of watching “videos on previous units to help retain the material.”
Many other students agree with Natanel that reviewing the material is essential to confidence and success on the AP exam. For example, senior Ella Goldstein talked about her experience with starting to study early on. “I’ve learned definitely from AP’s in the past that taking a slow, starting-early approach helped me learn better,” Ella mused, “even if it’s just a few flashcards a day.” This method helps her because over time she has realized that “I remember things easier when I’ve been learning for a long time rather than cramming.”
To aid in the process of reviewing, students such as senior Micah Feit Mann suggest utilizing the time and expertise that teachers offer. “Teachers are extremely good about just being there if you need to study,” Micah emphasized. In a school like AJA that has teachers willing to make themselves available, it can benefit the student to take advantage of these resources. Micah has definitely taken advantage of this, as he remarks, “It must have been that at least once for all my courses that I’ve had a one-on-one session for an extended period of time with a teacher because the teachers are always available for you.”
Ella echoed this sentiment, citing teachers as an essential ingredient to AP success, along with external sources for AP information. “There’s a really clear curriculum online usually that you can find what exactly you need to know, and especially if you have access to that curriculum, study materials and a teacher that’s willing to help you, which most of them are, it’s easy to pinpoint exactly what you need to improve on what you do.”
Setting oneself up for success on the AP can be a productive use of energy, but, at some point, a student has to trust themselves. Junior Sam Kutner advises, “You should not study like crazy because you’ll end up just forgetting it all.” Micah agreed, stating, “You don’t need to know the whole exam, you need to know the basis of the exam for you to do well.” He also added that, due to the standardization of AP exams, “If you’re not getting 100% on every test, that’s fine.” However, Sam made sure to mention that studying is still essential; one must simply review in moderation. “You should clarify what you really remember, but you should just trust what you know and only go over what you need,” Sam said, reminding students that maintaining a balance in AP preparation is essential to achieving satisfactory exam scores.
In addition to working hard and having confidence in oneself, another consideration for the AP exam is one’s own goals for the test. For Micah and Sam, the goal is to get a high enough score on the test to get college credit for the AP course. Micah said that having the goal of college credit this year “was much less stress[ful] because it wasn’t in order for me to get into college, it was more for college credit.” Sam shared this same sentiment, saying, “I just do it for college credit.” Conversely, Ella feels that a purpose of the AP test is for students to actualize their potential. “Even if you don’t think that you care about the AP’s or doing well, remember that if you’re already going to have to sit through the test, you might as well try your best and prove to yourself that you’ve really learned and grown over the years,” said Ella. If all else fails, the motivation of wanting to do well can be enough for a student.
All in all, the AP’s at AJA can breed many different experiences and serve many different purposes for different students. Regardless of the amount of work, students have opportunities to succeed on the test, whether through self-studying, working with teachers, or instilling confidence in themselves. The AP season has come and gone, and the students of AJA are wiser for it.