AP teachers change preparation to accommodate to new test

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Emma Newman staff writer

Teachers of AP classes have had to change how they prepare as a result of the new AP test and a lack of face-to-face instruction time.

Because the new tests cover less material and contain fewer questions, teachers have had to adjust, from changing how they run classes to using different practice tests.

“We panicked a little bit at first, thinking, ‘How can we assess all of this information in two questions?’” math teacher Elaina Reilly said. “We think we’ve figured it out now, so it’s just been a really big change because they were so used to practicing multiple choice and we just had to throw those out the window.”

Reily, who teaches AP Calculus AB, had to change the structure of preparation because of the new test guidelines. The calculus test is now a 45 minute, three-question free-response exam as opposed to a three and a half hour, multiple-choice and free response exam.
The new testing format originally was concerning for her students, but their worries have subsided as a result of the College Board’s reassurance.

“They were worried at first, definitely, and they felt like they were being cheated out of their opportunity to get their 5s, but College Board [has] really reassured us that it’s still going to be possible for them to get 4s and 5s, as long as they know their stuff,” Reilly said.
However, she still finds difficulties with this adjustment.

“It’s just hard to be away from my students,” Reilly said. “It’s nice when I see them every day in class and we have an everyday feedback, and so it’s been a little hard with distance learning.”

History teacher Joanie Garratt, who teaches AP United States History, has also found it challenging to prepare her students for the AP test without face-to-face learning. Garratt has struggled with both technical difficulties that affect her teaching and a lack of motivation from her students.

“Some are very motivated, [while] others are using this as an excuse to check out, which is kind of disappointing,” Garratt said.

This lack of motivation only applies to a select few of her students, though.

“I imagine some won’t take the test, but most of the kids are doing fine. They’re motivated, they’re on task, they’re focused,” Garratt said. “About one or two kids…haven’t been around for distance learning.”

In some ways, Garratt thinks that the new test makes it easier for students to succeed. Because of new online technology, she has found that most of the practice can be done online, which allows the students to get “more practice and more feedback.” She also appreciates the shortened length of the new exam.

“[The test] is actually easier this year,” Garratt said. “We’re normally required to do nine units, [but] now there’s only seven.”

Even so, Garratt has found that these new conditions, however accommodating, have made it so she cannot prepare her students on the same level.

“I’ve learned, and this is my sincere belief, that, especially for high school students, nothing takes the place of a live teacher,” Garratt said. “I feel so grateful to still have a job and pay during this difficult time, but at the same time, this is just not as good as when we’re in class.”

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