The worst week in May

Neha Ajjampore, Activities Editor

Throughout the years of most students, there are a few times year when stress levels are high and nerves run rampant. For seniors, it’s college applications; juniors have standardized tests like the ACT.

But one common thread between all grades is the elevated pressure that comes with AP (advanced placement) exams, which take place during the month of May.

While there are several benefits to taking an AP class, such as boosting your GPA and earning college credit, it’s definitely not easy. What’s worse, the majority of AP classes are run first semester, and the exam is held late in the year – reviewing and relearning information is a necessity.

Leah Cape, a sophomore who is taking the AP European History exam this year, says, “The stuff you need to learn is a broad spectrum of subjects and it’s hard to keep it all fresh in your mind.” Clearly, there’s quite a bit of work that goes into preparation for the exam.

It also doesn’t help that advanced placement courses have expectations that are above and beyond regular classes. Aside from the typical final exam or project at the end of each term, there are usually more notes to take and more homework to complete than the norm. “Trying to juggle studying for it, while also keeping up in your other classes is the hardest part,” states Angela Lee (‘19).

Plus, it’s a college level class, so the pace is bound to be very rigorous – especially if the AP class is run during the second semester (though it is a rarity) and the entire curriculum needs to be completed several weeks before the end of the school year, when all other classes conclude.

Julia Olson (‘20) comments on the benefits and hardships of having alternating AP Psychology: “It’s nice that we get to learn all year right up until the day of the exam, but it’s also pretty hard that we have to cram all the material before May.”

Undoubtedly, to be an advanced placement student requires time management, prioritizing skills, and the ability to balance countless activities.

However, an argument can be made that the AP Readers, those who score the exam, have a more challenging job. Readers from universities and colleges must be active staff members and have taught a minimum of two terms of a similar AP course within the past three years, according to the Educational Testing Service website.
The organization states that high school teachers must be currently teaching the AP course in a face-to-face classroom, with at least two years of experience, unless the class is new.

Mr. McBride, a history teacher who has graded AP exams in the past, states, “Maintaining focus while scoring responses is probably the most difficult aspect of the reading. Over the course of the week I’ll read somewhere between a couple hundred to over a thousand responses, depending on the question I’m assigned to.”

He goes on to say that sustaining physiological health is important during the Reading: “Because of how mentally (and surprisingly physically) exhausting scoring can be, the importance of eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, and daily exercise is amplified for me…I’ve found it to be incredibly difficult to be successful without taking care to achieve all three.”

Evidently, AP exams are a stressful time for everyone – whether you’re a student or a teacher. Taking and scoring an exam both require a whole lot of mental effort and brain power. As for which is tougher?

I think we can all agree that it’s pretty energy-draining for everyone involved – but the experience and opportunity to go beyond academically makes it worthwhile.