Jul 29, 2011

Getting Ahead of the AP Curve

If you signed up for an Advanced Placement (AP) class and know it’s going to be freakin’ hard, why not take a little time to get ahead and prepare during the summer?

Why wait until midway through first quarter to hire an AP calculus tutor after you’ve flunked the first quiz and you’re totally stressed, when you could start working for an hour or two each week with the same tutor in the weeks before school starts? Get the book even.

The government thinks this is such a good idea that Uncle Sam invested thousands of dollars in Advanced Placement Incentive Grants, which may be used by school districts to run summer prep activities for both pre-advanced placement and advanced placement courses.

And a few local high schools have caught on and created inexpensive workshops such as the Wakefield Summer Bridge Program or the Oakton High School Summer Institute to help students make the transition to AP.

For college-bound high school students, AP-level coursework is hard to escape. In fact, colleges are shifting from using AP scores as de facto admissions criteria (yes they might just sneak a peek) to allowing these scores to be substituted for other standardized tests.

For example, NYU allows specific AP test scores to substitute for the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the two SAT Subject tests required for admission. Bryn Mawr, Colby, Colorado College, Hamilton, Middlebury and a growing number of other schools are taking similar steps by adopting “test flexible” policies using AP scores in place of SAT’s or ACT’s.

Short of taking a prep class or hiring a tutor this summer, consider borrowing textbooks and course reading packets from your high school or from another student who took the class last year. So what if it changes a little. Reading source material—any source material—is good for you. It even helps with college entrance exams.

And here’s a tip for those who can’t talk anyone into handing over reading lists or other AP materials: the College Board provides comprehensive course descriptions and syllabi online. Here are sample readings from one AP English Literature syllabus (students select two modern novels in Unit 9):

All the King’s Men, Angle of Repose, The Bluest Eye, Brave New World, Catch 22, Frankenstein, Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kite Runner, Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Poisonwood Bible, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Snow Falling on Cedars, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Looks great to me! Then again, I was an English major in the last century.

OK, it’s your vacation and you want to unwind and relax. But if you can read ahead while still keeping your toes in the sand, why not do it?

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