College courses put students to the test

Advanced Placement testing is conducted at the High School for two weeks every May. – MV Times file photo

By Alicja Vickers

This Friday students across the country who are enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses will be finishing exams that have been administered over the past two weeks. Because these courses are the equivalent of college courses, students may earn college credit by scoring well on these exams. Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) offers a wide range of AP courses for grades ten through twelve, including but not limited to biology, United States history, statistics, and even music theory.

Though receiving college credit and high school credit at the same time may seem like a  great opportunity, most students agree the workload comes at a cost. “At first when I started AP History, two hours of homework a night was quite a change from the average workload in an honors class,” said tenth grader Sam Cranston, “but once you finish the course and exam it’s all worth it, because you know you worked hard and earned it.”

“It was definitely a learning experience and trial run for me,” said tenth grade AP Biology student Victoria Scott. “It was helpful for me to get a glimpse of what college workloads will be like and really made me aware of how to manage my time and adjust to large workloads, which I think will go a long way once I attend college.”

Most teachers are not overly concerned with the level of work associated with AP courses and the stress that sometimes comes with it. Olsen Houghton teaches AP US History to sophomores. He said, “This was the first time sophomores have faced a test like this that actually has some long term implications, or could have. At some point in the year they figure that out—normally 24 hours before the exam—and that’s when the stress kicks in. It might be beneficial to convince students of this before so that they do a bit more to prepare. But the kids who worked hard did okay.”

There was acknowledgement, however, that there is justification for feeling stressed. Carrie Fyler teaches AP Biology and said, “I think it can’t help but be stressful for students. They want to do well for themselves so they can potentially use that score when applying for college, and also you’ve spent a year working with your teachers and you want to do well for your teachers. There’s a lot riding on these tests.”

Some students use AP classes as a means to further prepare themselves for other exams such as the SAT. Eleventh grader and AP Biology studentJack Davin said, “I take AP Biology mostly because I wanted to learn more about the subject, but also because I think I will learn enough to improve my score on the SAT subject test—it’s like killing two birds with one stone.”

As far as preparation goes, AP English teacher Mr. McCarthy gives his students a piece of advice before their exams. “‘I am always sure to let them know to answer what the question asks and not the misconstrued version they sometimes trick themselves into thinking it is. I consider AP to be an acronym for ‘answer the prompt,’ and I think this helps my students very much so.”