Block Scheduling Would Benefit from Semiannual AP Tests

     Each year in May, over one million high school students around the world take Advanced Placement exams in the hopes of earning college credit. However, with the number of schools changing to block scheduling, preparing for AP exams is becoming increasingly difficult. Although College Board, the organization which administers the AP exams, has not commented on the recommendation to offer exams twice a year, doing so would remove many of the issues which students of block scheduling face.

     The numerous advantages of block scheduling are why so many American high schools are switching to the system. With fewer subjects to focus on at a time, along with longer classes, students often become more immersed in course material, and may even see greater academic success. Furthermore, it encourages more personal student-teacher relationships and is usually financially beneficial for schools. However, this schedule change usually means that students have AP courses either only first semester or only second semester, like the majority of classes run at BC.

     In traditional school days with around eight daily classes, AP students would have from September until May to learn and retain the AP course content in class. With continued exposure to the material and many months to deepen understanding of challenging concepts, along with review of the content prior to the exam, diligent students will likely be successful on the AP exam in May. On the other hand, in a block scheduling setting, having a class from September until January simply is not as effective in preparing students for an exam only offered in May. Not only is the content attained in a much shorter period of time, but the class ends long before students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. Giving the course from January until June is just as problematic, seeing as the AP exams are administered approximately four weeks prior to the end of the semester. As a result, teachers lose deep and detailed instruction in an effort to cover all the course material before the exam.

     While before and after school review sessions are helpful, they are not always convenient to attend, and do not make up for the disadvantages AP students face with block scheduling. Additionally, at a school like Brookfield Central, in which students took over 700 AP exams in 2013, there is not enough time to run all AP courses during Terms 2 and 3, so that classes would end closer to the exam, let alone that this would also cause other scheduling conflicts.

     Due to the fact that students with block scheduling are at an obvious disadvantage in preparing for AP exams, administering AP exams twice a year is an invaluable option for these students, once in January and again in May. Although this would require College Board to create two versions of each AP exam to ensure integrity and security, it would allow these students the same advantages of recent preparation and sufficient classroom instruction time as the traditional schedule. As more schools implement block scheduling because of its many advantages, students would profoundly benefit from AP exams being given twice during the school year.