The Stress is On- AP Students Prepare for Tests


Fiona Miller, Reporter

Textbooks and study books and practice quizzes, oh my. Twenty pound backpacks. Early morning coffee and late nights, every night. An irrational fear of calendars. As the school year came to a close and the first weeks of May drew nearer, this lifestyle became increasingly popular among teens all across America. Once again, high school students hit the home stretch of the dreaded AP exams.

AP, or Advanced Placement courses, offer the opportunity for high school students to experience college- level curriculum. As stated by the College Board, there are over 30 AP courses available throughout the Unites States, ranging from common core- type classes, such as calculus or history, to more unusual subjects, including Latin. Students must apply to be accepted into AP courses. The class itself involves completing extensive classwork in preparation for a final exam in the beginning of May. As of Thursday, May 14th, every AP test will have been completed.

Woodland Park High School offers eight AP classes: literature/ composition, language/ composition, chemistry, biology, environmental science, calculus, world history, and US history. Many students decided to take AP in anticipation of their plans for their future. Savannah Williams (11th) is currently finishing up the AP Biology course. “I chose to take AP because for the career I want to go into, which is marine biology, I would need biology, and this way I can get it out of the way.” Another major draw was certainly the potential to gain college credit. Most colleges will award credit hours to students who earn a three or higher on the final AP exam (which is graded on a 1-5 scale). These credits can allow students to get a head start on their planned major, or, in the case of Shane Saylor (10th), “so I don’t have to take this class [AP world history] again in college.”

Despite the benefits, AP life gets rough come the end of the second semester. The AP test, unlike most traditional high school exams, covers material learned over the entire school year, therefore studying requires a significant amount of preparation and initiative. Students might purchase study books, review the summaries of each chapter in their class textbook, or take oodles of online practice questions. In class, AP students wrap up the initial learning of the class’ respective content and delve into example test after example test. In addition to hours of studying, WP students had numerous other responsibilities vying for their attention. Some took college courses through AVP or concurrent enrollment, or participated in extracurricular activities, like the spring musical or baseball. Others were members of Beta club, Key club, or NHS. Juniors carried an especially heavy workload, as they also had to prepare for the two major college entrance exams, ACT and SAT. To top it all off, the second half of PARCC, the new standardized test, was scheduled amid the AP testing.

The different AP classes include various levels and types of challenges. When asked about the most difficult part of her AP world history course, Gretchen Riggle (10th) replied, “The pace of it. It goes really fast.” Melissa Baumgardener (12th), who is currently taking AP literature and composition, responded differently. “The most difficult part would be the literary devices we have to incorporate into our everyday class.”

So what advice did WPHS AP teachers have for their apprehensive students? Mrs. O’Shea, AP Chemistry, suggested students start studying early and do not procrastinate. “I think it is helpful to review older content using previous homework assignments, tests, and AP prep books.” Mr. Read warned against allowing stress to become overwhelming. “It is important to coach [students] to relax and believe in themselves, assuring them that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful on the exam. Test anxiety can often hamper even a well prepared student.”

Still thinking about doing AP? Several students would advise that you go through with it. “I would suggest taking an AP course because even though it is stressful at the end of the year, it really gives you a sense of what college feels like and prepares you for it,” says Clarissa Hickam (11th), who has been taking four AP courses this school year. Alex Ross (12th) would also suggest AP. “It challenges you, and it forces you to grow up a little bit, but also it will benefit you in college.” AP, as stated by US History teacher Mr. Pappadakis, is a distinguishing agent among high schoolers. “Students who take AP coursework, especially those who take as many as possible, set themselves apart from the mainstream student population. It’s a way of demonstrating that certain students are not fearful for their future, but rather they feel that they’ve already engaged their future.”