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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

The AP Syndicate: Are AP exams really necessary?

Lee Whiddon crams for AP exams in the library

Every year during the first two school weeks of May, high school students around the country file into classrooms and gymnasiums to take the College Board’s Advanced Placement (Advanced Placement) tests.  Ranging from Music Theory to German to Calculus, the exams are intended to give students better preparation for college courses, and in some cases, if the student does well enough on the test, college credit.  However, the curriculum also has an unintended consequence of stress–lots of stress.

Kevin Reese falls asleep in AP Environmental Science due to stress

At Gonzaga, 26 of the 38 AP courses are offered in almost every department, which allows students to explore a diverse array of challenging classes that run at a fast pace–plus it doesn’t hurt to get a GPA boost on one’s final transcript.  In every case, however, from the day I enter the classroom in August to the day when I enter the gym to take the test, it is a marathon for me to cram all of the knowledge of multiple AP classes into my developing brain at a unit-per-week pace.  Aiden Bond, a senior who is going to William and Mary swimming commit, commented on the classes. 

“I think the AP classes bring an insurmountable amount of stress to my school life,” Bond said.  “However, it does happen to help me in college admissions, so it is one of those necessary evils in school.”

The stress is not limited to Gonzaga students. Gonzaga’s teachers must also try to cram all of the material into at most three days per week if they can’t get through all the content, students have to teach a unit to themselves during spring break.  Senior Charlie Scherer encapsulated this through the stress that he had over spring break.

“I understand the need to be a student first,” Scherer said.  “But the fact of the matter is that if the teachers and school expect us to be citizens of the world, is doing packets and packets worth of content memorized over our small moment of tranquility during the school year going to do anything?”

Scherer has a point, but the fact is that as Bond said earlier, the AP classes have a role in college admissions carries a large weight in why many students flock to enroll in these classes–passing scores will ultimately give advantages such as admission, class credit and recognized honors to students.  While the lectures may not be fun to sit through constantly and may rob students of their ability to be creative, AP is a necessary evil in the world of college admissions.

Charlie Scherer posing on a field trip to the National Gallery of Art for an AP Art History Field Trip

While I believe that some of the AP classes I’ve taken at Gonzaga have been my favorite classes, some of them have made me lose passion for what I thought I’d want to pursue.  I believe actions should be taken by Gonzaga to deload the stress that students feel during AP classes.  This deloading could be seen through more experiential learning (like the Social Justice in Action course in the religion department), more projects (to improve creativity), moving back to an all-eight schedule (to lighten the daily load and improve class camaraderie) and urging AP teachers to check-in with students every once in a while.

I’ll forever cherish the knowledge I gained, but to be honest, I’m ecstatic that I’ll never have to take one of those exams ever again.

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