Community reflects on AP exam commencement

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Sophia Bassi

A sign encourages students to remain silent while Advanced Placement exams take place. AP exams are administered May 2 to 20 on the ASL campus and at the Danubius Hotel.

Sophia Bassi, News Editor: Online

Advanced Placement exams, which commenced May 2 and will continue through May 20, are being administered either on the ASL campus or at the Danubius Hotel. While in 2020 and 2021 students had the option of taking AP exams digitally due to pandemic restrictions, most AP exams have returned to the traditional pen-and-paper version, per an article from U.S. News.

According to the College Board, AP exams are standardized assessments that evaluate a student’s understanding of an AP course. Annually, exams are administered in May at high schools and exam centers worldwide. Students have the opportunity to gain credit for AP scores to progress to more advanced classes at most U.S. colleges, per the College Board.

Science Teacher Karen Bonthrone, who held lunch and weekend review sessions for AP Chemistry, Psychology and Physics 1 students, said students have needed more preparation due to the knowledge gaps induced by distance learning in previous years.

“I think all AP teachers have had to reinforce content and skills that normally in the past students would come in with, but because of the pandemic, they haven’t had them this year,” she said. “For that reason, there’s been a need to do a bit more outside of class than in previous years.”

Matteo Salloum (’24) sat the AP Computer Science A exam and is preparing to take the AP Physics 1 exam. To prepare for his exams, Salloum said in addition to taking diagnostic tests, he reviewed past content from the course and previous College Board questions, which he said has allowed him to “get a better understanding of how the problems and tests are structured.”

Bonthrone said the stress levels of students depend on their individual circumstances. She said there are more students who need support due to an increase in students applying to non-U.S. universities. According to the College Board, the majority of U.K. universities accept AP test scores as the primary evaluation of students, with some schools even requiring them.

“If that’s a greater part of our population, then we want to be there to support them as much as possible,” she said. “Obviously those exams can make or break which college they will get into potentially.”

AP teachers have had to reinforce content and skills that normally in the past students would come in with.”

— Science Teacher Karen Bonthrone

Additionally, Bonthrone said given that students have been administered shorter and fewer tests throughout the school year, many have not practiced the style of testing seen in AP exams. As a result of this, she said it is extremely important for students to take notes and ask teachers questions.

“If you want to do well on your AP exams, you need to have a good system of notes because you have to go back and review that whole year,” she said. “Because students haven’t had the same level of practice, that’s why it’s so important to keep good notes.”

Danielle Hajjar (’23), who took the AP Chemistry exam, said although she experienced a significant amount of stress before the exam, she was able to concentrate and perform to her full ability as she said the results are very important to her.

“There’s something that happens in AP rooms where you enter the state of focus, which I was afraid I wasn’t going to do,” she said. “I ended up entering that state of focus during the AP and I did my best.”

Similarly, Salloum said although there is a burst of stress at the beginning of the exam, this anxiety decreases as time continues.

“You get a lot more stress at the start of the test and in the very first few questions,” he said. “Then the stress level goes down if you know the concepts.”

Take something you want to take, but also find ways to keep yourself healthy because that’s the most important part.”

— Danielle Hajjar (’23)

Furthermore, Salloum said during the exam, it was helpful for him to calmly work through each part of the question and relate it to the concepts he studied. He said if students have studied and understand the basic principles, they should answer the question correctly.

Hajjar said she recommends students choose challenging courses while also making sure they take care of themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself,” she said. “Take something you want to take, but also find ways to keep yourself healthy because that’s the most important part. You’re not going to get a good result if you don’t feel good.”

Moreover, Hajjar said she learned the importance of trusting herself during the test and understanding that there was nothing more she could do to prepare when beginning the exam.

“My advice is to believe in yourself,” she said. “You’ve done what you can do. If you haven’t, that’s a different situation, but when you have, you should feel proud of yourself no matter what.”