Advanced Placement students prepare to take tests virtually

April 29, 2020

By Carolyne Mooney
Staff Writer 

Junior Bianca Palestis sits comfortably on her bed at home while drinking coffee and watching crash course videos. This has become a routine for her as she prepares for the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition as well as U.S. History tests she will be taking next month.

Generally, the three-hour-long assessments are administered with paper and pencil in a quiet area of the school. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be offered online in the form of a single 45-minute essay to be completed at home.  

A major challenge for me while taking the test will probably be the fact I have two younger siblings, meaning my house is always loud and there is a lot going on,” Palestis said.

She said she fears she will get distracted during the test but is happy about the test’s shorter format.

“I’m more scared of these AP tests than I have ever been in the past. However, I still feel pretty prepared because of all the different study chances I’ve been given.”

“I feel it is more user-friendly, and students will be more comfortable,” Palestis said.

She said her teachers Ms. Coppola and Mr. Tessalone have been helping their students prepare by offering updates via Google Classroom and sending them crash course videos to watch on YouTube.

Palestis said she likes the videos because they are short but contain a lot of information.

“I feel prepared enough for the AP exams considering the circumstances this year. If we were still in school, I feel that I would be more prepared and have more access to my teachers for help, but overall I am feeling pretty well,” Palestis said. 

She said she does not regret her decision to enroll in these two AP classes because she has been successful in English class and history has always been one of her favorite subjects.

“AP Language and Composition will help me in the future because I want to be a psychologist, which means getting a Ph.D. I will need a good English background and strong writing skills, which is what I’m learning right now,” Palestis said. 

Senior Stephanie Oliveira, who is taking AP calculus with Mr. Franklin and AP macroeconomics with Mr. Marcus, said she is worried about taking the test at home because, like Palestis, she has two younger siblings. Oliveira said she is responsible for watching them while her parents are at work.

She said she is also concerned about finishing the tests within the allotted time.

“Since all the tests are now written responses, I have to make sure that I am keeping up,” Oliveira said. “I can’t rush through the last few questions and quickly pick an answer like with multiple choice.”

Oliveira said she has been utilizing all the resources her teachers have provided. She said she reviews assignments and notes related to topics she believes will be on the exam.    

“I think the test will be easier in terms of material but harder in terms of motivation and pressure. There are not many questions, so any mistake can cost you a lot on this new test, especially if it happens to be based on a concept you are unsure about,” Oliveira said. 

She said she is taking AP macroeconomics because she will be going into the fashion business field, and having knowledge about how the economy works is helpful. She said she decided to enroll in AP calculus because it was suggested by her guidance counselor Mr. Rowland since she took precalculus last year. 

“A passing score on your AP test can save you a lot of time and money in your future. If your scores qualify you for credits, then you can skip that class and take a different class to get you more ahead than those around you,” Oliveira said. 

Senior Reagan Ferschweiler is enrolled in AP calculus with Mr. Franklin, English Literature with Ms. DiMaggio and Physics C: Mechanics, which she takes as a virtual high school course.

Ferschweiler said she is unhappy there will be no multiple choice on the exams because those questions are easier than responding to open-ended prompts. She fears that it will be especially hard for students to earn a passing score this year.

“I’m more scared of these AP tests than I have ever been in the past. However, I still feel pretty prepared because of all the different study chances I’ve been given,” Ferschweiler said. 

She said she feels most confident about the English Literature test.

“To me, English as a class doesn’t really change throughout the [years], so I feel like I’ve had practice for this exam my entire life,” Ferschweiler said. “I feel like it will be the easiest compared to calculus and physics, where I’ve only studied the material for a year.”

She said it is also important for her to do well on the calculus and physics tests since she intends to study biomedical engineering and focus on nerve research. 

Ferschweiler said in each of her AP classes, the students have been spending their time studying for the exams rather than learning new material. She said her teachers have given their students plenty of review opportunities such as offering links to online preparation sessions and practice tests.

Despite the studying she has been doing, Ferschweiler is nervous because her testing environment could hinder her ability to be successful.

“Being able to stay focused while in a less-focused environment is definitely going to be a struggle for me,” Ferschweiler said. “I can already see myself getting up to check my phone or get a snack halfway through, so I am going to need to make a conscious decision not to do that.”

Even though she will strive to do her best on all three of her AP tests, Ferschweiler said she does not want to lose sight of the fact that scores do not define who she is and are not a measure of her intelligence. She said it would be amazing to do extremely well on the exams but failing to earn a passing score will not be the end of the world.

She said no matter how she performs on the AP tests, she expects to feel relieved once they are over. 

“For an AP student, the most stressful time is the weeks leading up to the tests, so when they’re done, it’s like all of the stress is instantly gone,” Ferschweiler said. “While we still do work [in school], the rest of the year is smooth sailing.”

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