Never Ending Calculus Retakes

Every Friday afternoon after school, AP  Calculus students spend two hours or more taking a retest; students are motivated to retake the test because they want to improve their grade. Students qualify to take a retest if they score less than 90% on a test, which is given every 2 weeks. Students can usually retake the test three different times.

The number of students that show up for “retakes” varies by each test, it could be anywhere from 1 to 120 (the size of Mr. Ring and Ms. Nelson’s class combined). When there are too many students who want to take a retest and they don’t fit in the classroom, retest are held in the cafeteria. Typically though, the first retake on a test has about 80 students.

Calculus teachers Mr. Ring and Ms. Nelson have been working together for many years to create AP Calculus tests. “I started retest in 2002; a student that did not do well on a test asked if he could have another chance to prove that he understood the material. I gave him another test and he improved,” says Mr. Ring, adding, “I give out retakes because it gives the opportunity for students that struggle with certain topics to improve their understanding by revisiting them.”

Students that take the retest usually do better than their first attempt. Mr Ring says, “Although making these test are difficult and take a long time to grade, I feel like retests have been effective and it’s a stress reliever for students: it takes away some of the test anxiety. Also, students love taking math tests.”

While Mr. Ring and Ms. Nelson see retakes as something that works, some students say otherwise. One student claims, “Retakes give us another opportunity to fail. The teacher spends a lot of time making and grading these retakes, unfortunately.   One student says, “It’s very sad and makes me sad, because a lot of people have to retake every single time.”

Looking at it from a different perspective, senior Jason Ng says, “It is a great opportunity to make up my grades but does discourage my first attempt knowing that I can retake.”

Other students like having the ability to retake the tests. Desmond Trieu says, “I always do crappy on the first test, but I improve dramatically on the next test.”

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