By Wendy Y., staff writer
Over the last two years, I have taken five AP courses and six AP exams. I signed up because I was told that AP courses were challenging and I like being challenged. Prior to signing up for the classes, I was not aware that taking an AP course could boost your GPA or get you college credits if you pass the AP exam.
Looking back at the 5 AP courses I took, I can say that I really enjoyed them. They dove into the subject matter in much more depth. For example, I only learned about the basic functions of cells in my normal biology course when I attended Washington High School during my freshman year, but in AP Biology, Mr. Chinn taught many things such as ATP, mitosis, and meiosis to name just a few. It took awhile to adjust to the course load that AP classes gave, but after taking a few, it started to feel the same as any other course.
During my junior year, I took AP Language and Composition with Ms. Gates and AP Biology with Mr. Chinn. For my senior year, I took AP Literature and Composition with Ms. Maroun, AP Calculus AB with Ms. Nelson, AP Government & Politics with Mr. Lynch, and decided to take the AP Chinese Language exam without taking any Chinese courses at Galileo. Here are my thoughts on the AP classes and exams that I took.
Since I had retired English teacher, Ms. Barrett, for English Honors during my sophomore year, I expected to spend a huge portion of my evenings and nights typing, answering prompts, and doing critical thinking for AP Language and Composition. However, Ms. Gates was completely different. I definitely did critical thinking, but homework did not take the entirety of my nights as opposed to Ms. Barrett’s English Honors class. In her class, we learned A LOT of vocabulary that is extremely important for the AP exam and everyday vocabulary, improved my multiple choice taking skills, and learned how to write three types of essays: rhetorical, argumentical, and synthetic. Upon taking the exam, I felt extremely prepared since Ms. Gates is an amazing teacher and knew how to space everything out so the class got most out of everything. During the test, I recognized a lot of terms that were taught in class. I felt better with the essay portion where I knew what I was supposed to write and how since we had a lot of practice in class. I had fun during the exam, and felt confident that I passed.
The second AP class I had during my junior year was AP Biology with Mr. Chinn. I headed into the class with a bad impression of Mr. Chinn because of the feedback I received from upperclassmen. However, he became one of my favorite teachers. Mr. Chinn has the skill to mix funny anecdotes alongside with teaching us biology. His “slides” that are actually a Google Docs are very useful for his tests and the exam. I heard that there was a student who didn’t pay attention for the entire year but passed the exam with a 3 just from looking at the notes! However, biology was not an easy subject especially since I had to balance it with classes such as AP Language and the Algebra 2 & Pre-calculus hybrid class. In the class, we did practice multiple choice exams and free response questions that I believe I benefited in. I entered the AP exam class knowing that I was not going to pass because I did not prepare for the class outside of the classroom. I expected to receive a 1, the lowest score. During the test, I did not bother with the multiple choice section so I played a little game of “fill in the bubbles wherever you want”. I tried during the free response because I recognized some material that was discussed in class. I ended up getting a 2. When I received the score, I was extremely surprised at first because I was so sure I was going to receive a 1. The feeling that came after was a mix of disappointment and hopefulness because I might have been able to get a 3 if I tried on the multiple choice exam.
The first AP exam I took my senior year was AP Government. I studied pretty hard for the test by memorizing all the important terms, significant Federalist papers, Brutus No. 1, and Supreme Court cases. I felt prepared walking into the test because Mr. Lynch did a good job providing us with a lot of paperwork that contained a lot of information. The weekly free responses and textbook research slides also helped a lot. I feel confident that I will pass because I remember only having a lot of trouble with a few questions for the multiple choice section, and I had fun in the free response section because I knew what I was writing. I feel confident about passing, but am still a little scared of failing.
AP Literature came two days after AP Government. I did not care for the test as much as all my other ones because I passed the AP Language exam last year, which guaranteed me credit for one semester of a college course. I had to obtain a 4 or a 5 on the Literature test to get another semesters worth, and I am 100% positive I am not getting either of those scores, so I did not try as hard. Even though I did not care about passing the exam, I also did not feel prepared at all. The multiple choice practice tests that we did in class were helpful, but we barely completed any practice essays and when we did, they were all extremely spaced out like practicing once in a month or too close together like four in a week. The multiple choice was pretty difficult nonetheless and I also had trouble with the free response. I am certain I will be receiving a 2.
The exam I was most stressed about was AP Calculus AB because Calculus is a difficult subject even though I really like it. While I was nervous about the exam, I also felt confident because Ms. Nelson is really, really good teacher who cares about the success of her students. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Ring would also host weekend exam sessions where we would work on packets and ask for help if needed. The weekend sessions definitely helped me in the exam. The exam turned out to be harder than I expected, especially the non-calculator free response, but I still had fun during the exam because I got to see all that I learned throughout the year applied to the problems on the exam. I feel iffy about my possibility of passing, but I am leaning more towards the confident side that I passed.
The last AP exam that I ever took in my high school career is AP Chinese. I was going to take it last year, but students were required to take the class at Galileo to be admitted into the test. That wasn’t the case this year so I signed up. The exam was taken on computers instead of the traditional paper and pencil. There were three portions in the test: listening, writing, and speaking. I felt assured that I would at least get a score of 3 because I have been taking Chinese school ever since I was 5 years old. I felt the most confident on the listening part and the writing part since it was in pinyin (I did not have to write the actual word!). I felt unsure of myself in the speaking portion because I don’t speak Mandarin at all. I only speak it once in a while when I go to Chinese school. I have hopes that I will get a 3.
Taking AP classes and exams have been quite an experience for me. It was a roller coaster with its ups and downs. At the end of the day, I am proud of taking those classes and exams because it’s proof that I challenged and pushed myself. Another great thing is that I might be able to graduate one semester earlier! I definitely recommend taking AP courses because a challenge never hurt anyone, but there must also have a balance. AP courses take up a lot of attention and time so my advice If a student took too many, they won’t be able to give complete focus to one class. This might negatively affect their performance in the class.