AP Classes: Is Your Teen Prepared Enough?
When I took my first, and only, AP (Advanced Placement) class in high school I was warned by my guidance counselor: ‘AP classes are hard.’ ‘Are you sure that you can handle the work?’ Umm, well, I did until you asked me. It was as if I was about to be the unsuspecting victim in a thriller movie naively ready to venture down a dark alley. How hard could a college style class in high school be? It turned out to be everything in the guidance counselor’s unsolicited premonitions, and then some. The tests seemed to be in a foreign language. Where were the questions that asked me to connect words to their definitions? Where were the questions that were supposed to be exactly like what was on the study guide? No, these were different kinds of questions. Questions that made me think about a definition and then ask me to twist and turn that definition two or three different ways in order to get the answer. If the class tests were this hard, I couldn't imagine how hard the real AP exam would be at the end of the school year. I was still looking to just pass one test as the third test approached. I had never had such trouble passing tests before. I was beginning to think that perhaps the guidance counselors’ warning was right. Just maybe I was not smart enough to be in the AP class. Looking at AP exam statistics today I would imagine that there are many children of color who may incorrectly underestimate their intelligence when it comes to passing AP exams. The College Board reported AP exam takers in 2013 that scored a 3 or higher (5 being the highest score) by race and the findings were disheartening: 4.6% African American 16.9% Hispanic/Latino 12.7% Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander .5% American Indian/Alaska Native 61.3% White
Schools technically look at a student’s GPA and high scores on certain sections of the PSAT to determine if they are academically prepared to handle college coursework in high school. I am not sure what the requirements were in my day to enter into AP land. I suppose I didn’t make the cut as I can remember my mama having to go down to my school to tell the guidance counselor that she and my daddy believed I could do it. As my grades suffered in my AP class I knew I needed to revamp my study habits, which basically consisted of studying the day before the test for 1-2 hours. So, I upped my study time to 6 hours! The day before the third test I arrived at my AP biology class and proudly told my teacher that I’d studied 6 hours straight. The longest time, I might add, that I’d ever spent in my grade school years studying over material for a test. My teacher looked at me, and quietly told me, ‘It’s not about how many hours you studied the night before, but how much you studied the weeks before.’ What? I thought to myself. You mean I can’t learn all the material in one night and pass the test? That’s how I thrived in school up until this time. I eventually learned how to really study for tests and (by the grace of God) ended up passing my AP exam with a score of 3. There is no doubt that we expect all of our three to take AP classes when they are in high school. And if they have trouble passing the tests I will let them know that it is not because they are not smart enough. But rather because they were not prepared enough.
What’s been your child’s experience with AP classes?