AP Exams by Henry Horne

Until this year, Advanced Placement (AP) teachers had liberty to reduce the class schedule for students after the AP exams. The recent change in AP class policy has caused frustration among AP students, as they are already attempting to balance a heavy class load and additional study time to prepare for the exams. The new policy requires that students attend classes four times a week, just as they normally would. Students who participate in these classes not only have to engage in the rigors of an AP class but also have to sit through the grueling four-hour exam that normally marks the end of classwork.

The students who do elect to take AP-level courses are often put into challenging situations in terms of time management, as free time is extremely limited at Taft. It is not uncommon for Taft students to spend more than 90 minutes a night on homework for every AP class, and many students take more than one — some as many as four per year. In fact, Taft takes special pride in offering a stunning 29 different AP courses.

And that commitment does not even factor in the time spent studying for the exam.

According to Ellen McCammon at PrepScholar, students making a B in an AP class needs to devote a minimum of 25 additional hours to studying for the AP exam if they want to make a 5, the highest score. And even for the lucky few who have an A in the AP course, they will need at least 15 hours of additional study to shoot for that 5.

Taft students take this preparation seriously, and it can be draining. “Once we have gone through the stress of preparing for and taking the AP [exam], we shouldn’t have to deal with worrying about grades and attending a class that has basically finished because the AP is over,” said junior Meredith King.

In 2018, Taft students took 926 exams and earned a median score of 4, with 96 percent of seniors taking at least one AP exam during their time at Taft.

One of those seniors, Colin Schlissel, insists that the class attendance requirement is a mistake. “From my personal experience, I believe that the current academic policy requiring AP classes to meet four times a week following the conclusion of AP exams is good in theory, but falls short in practice. It results in class time sometimes being unproductive, and it can promote the attitude of going through the motions instead of voluntary active learning. Sometimes I have had teachers tell me that the only reason we met is because of the mandate; therefore, the mandate does not foster the most productive learning culture. Instead, the decision on how to use class time following AP exams should be left up for the teacher and students, as this will promote greater productivity and boost morale,” he said.

AP teachers also need extra time after the exams because many teach non-AP classes as well, and these classes are often at the peak of the course load in May. It is hard for them to come up with topics to engage students who have taken the exam and who have turned their attention to their other subjects. As junior Peter Denious said, “Teachers do a great job of specifically designing their schedule and their class’ curriculum in preparation for their respective AP exams. However, after the exams, from my experience, there has been a lack of purpose and useful material, and each class loses some of its initial significance.”

For many students, the policy change came as a surprise. “While I understand the premise of the decision, I remain frustrated. As a senior, I would just like to enjoy the culmination of my Taft career with fewer commitments,” Rex Rifler said.

Peter Horne, from the Class of 2018, concurs, “Students in AP classes are pushed all year long to excel at the highest level, and I believe that they should be rewarded after the exam by having some time off, or at least less than four classes a week.”

If AP teachers are not allowed discretion about when their classes meet after the AP exams, then a more reasonable change would be to require AP classes to meet three times a week after the exam, as rest and the extra class period would allow students to be successful in their other classes entering the final weeks of the school year.