By Lourdes Long
April 23, 2021
In the era of COVID-19, the already challenging AP exams have become significantly harder. With all the extra complications students are facing this year as well as the added stress of the pandemic itself, this year’s testing is bound to be an uphill battle.
“It’s a challenge,” Atholton AP American Government teacher Mrs. Crystal Shelley said, “And I feel for kids this year, I really do.”
Preparing for the AP Exams is never easy, but in 2021 things have only gotten harder. Between first semester students having to go months without being in their AP class before they take the test, students bearing heavier workloads, and everyone grappling with concepts when they have less time to learn, high schoolers taking AP classes find themselves in the precarious position of getting ready for a test that hasn’t stopped and waited for them to get back on their feet. Many agree that one of the worst things about learning this year is the condensed four-classes-a-semester schedule.
“We didn’t get to read nearly as many books because of the semester system, and reading a wide variety of books really does help prepare for the AP Exam,” Atholton English 12 AP teacher Mrs. Emily Stackhouse said. “Partly because of the open question [portion of the test] and partly just because it helps, having read a variety of different genres and time periods.” She added that since students never know what is going to be on the exam, having to cut about half of the books they would usually read over the course of a year was extremely detrimental.
The difficulties this year’s AP exams will bring because of circumstances out of students’ control should be something that everyone is aware of. According to Mrs. Shelley, a lot of the fun, interesting stuff that makes classes immersive had to be cut. Students who are new to AP classes shouldn’t be discouraged and stop taking them because of this rough year. She said there wasn’t “time to do the fun, interesting projects,” and that it was “challenging and less fun to teach the course.” Hopefully, by next year, there will be time to do those more engaging things for students and teachers.
Teachers are among a wide variety of people having to adjust to the difficulties of hybrid and virtual learning this school year. Students have to find their footing again in these strange times as well, and that’s no easy task.
According to Atholton junior Mia Oh, it became apparent that, while less time to learn and heftier workloads play a large role in AP classes this year, there’s also another matter which affects a substantial portion of the school: students who took their AP classes last semester are taking their exams in May. From late January to early May, they won’t have been in their AP classes—even though most schools, including AHS, are offering refresher courses to help them review things—and that can be a real problem.
“One of the main reasons that I decided not to [take any AP exams this year] was because [I took] the majority of my AP classes the first semester and I thought I was just gonna forget everything come time to take the test,” Oh explained. “And I knew there would be study classes my teachers recommended, but I just felt like it wouldn’t be enough to cover everything that we learned in order to be ready for the test.”
Students have had to change their learning styles and teachers have had to change their teaching styles, but has anything been altered permanently?
“Definitely,” Mrs. Stackhouse answered, “because I’ve sort of had to cut things like really hard tests and quizzes, because I just didn’t feel secure giving them. It’s made me take a step back and look at, ‘Okay, what am I really assessing and can I find a more effective way to do it than by giving multiple choice tests.’”
Despite all of the difficulties this year has brought on, there does still seem to be some positive outlook on the exams. Teachers continue to encourage their students, who have kept working hard through it all, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Oh encouraged any students who wanted to take them, stating that “if you just take good notes and you’re present during class, you can still perform well on the AP test.”
With everything that’s been going on, only time will tell if she’s right.