As college admission grows more competitive and expensive, students have to do more than just obtain good grades. By taking extracurriculars or challenging courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), students can benefit from good results. Teachers should not neglect preparing students for AP exams, which can play a role in challenging students academically and serve as a benchmark for getting ahead in college.
Placing more emphasis on preparing for the exam does not only mean that students will score high, but they can apply for scholarships, spend less money on college classes, and show colleges that they are willing to take on challenges, depending on the results. By not preparing students, teachers deprive them of opportunities to improve their chances, no matter how insignificant those scores may seem, of getting into a college they want to attend, especially if it is a competitive one. This in particular can affect low-income students who want to take advantage of AP courses.
According to research done by the College Board, there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of U.S. public high school graduates who have taken an AP exam over the last 10 years. This was perceived as a chance for all students to gain equal footing with their peers, disregarding their financial status.
The process of preparing students for the exam can also, in turn, prepare students for rigorous college-level coursework. Teachers can assign challenging coursework to teach students how to apply skills such as critical thinking and analytical skills to understand, interpret, and organize information in order to solve complex questions, which are much needed in college. However, teachers tend to stray away from valuable learning opportunities for dull busy work and assignments unrelated to the subject.
It is understandable why many are against teaching to the test since standardized tests are known to be knowledge-based and do not encourage creative thinking. AP exams are different in that they test college-level skills taught over the year, not just knowledge. It would be a missed opportunity for students who want to take the exam for the benefit of college credit. It is, in the end, the student’s choice whether or not they take the exam. Those who do should receive the necessary support and guidance from the teacher in order to reach their goal. Neglecting to prepare students would be unfair to those planning to do the exam.
A solution would be to construct a balanced curriculum that can both prepare students for the AP exam and also allow students who are passionate about the subject to explore and engage by connecting material outside of the curriculum to what is being tested on the exam. This compromise will allow teaching to the test without having to sacrifice a good education.