editor in chief
It’s that time of year again...when all Advanced Placement students sit down for the exams they’ve been preparing for all year. Nantucket High School offers a number of AP classes: AP Language and Composition, AP Literature, AP U.S. History, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Environmental, AP Spanish, AP Capstone Seminar and Research, and AP Studio Art.
Peter Panchy, who has been teaching AP U.S. History for 16 years, spoke to the difficulty of the test.
“The [AP US History] test is about thinking,” stressed Panchy. “It’s about both reading texts and other facts to gather content about U.S. History, but the test is very, very challenging and what it asks you to do is analyze and make connections.”
Mr. Panchy said he prepared his students “through discussion and essay prompts, as well as reading primary source documents.”
He also noted that each class seems to struggle with a different section of the exam - whether it be the multiple choice or the themes, for instance. This year, he found that many of his students struggled to master thesis construction and brainstorming.
“I found it especially challenging because I thought the class wasn’t picking up the process as fast as in previous years,” said Mr. Panchy. “so we kind of slowed down and did fewer writing of essays and more developing of thesis and facts to support the essay.”
Mr. Panchy emphasized that all AP classes are difficult, but he finds AP U.S. History to be especially hard, as one must master eight different time periods, seven different themes as well as have a handle on time management.
“I have a terrible bias because I teach U.S. History but I think it’s the most difficult exam,” he said. “[Students] have to master, in great detail, two years of content and, then, using designated historical skills such as compare and contrast, and causation, also employ eight emphasized themes….[all] while still maintaining very precise control over facts. I think it’s exceptionally daunting.”
Dr. Jed Williams, who has been teaching calculus for two years now, spoke to the fact that AP exams are college level courses, and can be extremely difficult under such time constraints.
“It [AP Calculus] is broken down into basically three units,” said Dr. Williams. “limits, derivatives, integrals and differential equations. But that’s three semesters of college calculus, so it’s a huge amount of mathematics to fit into less than one year.”
Dr. Williams put it simply: “it’s too much in too little time.”
However, the way Dr. Williams has structured the class allows for good review time, as they spend the first part of the year learning the calculus material, and then the second portion of the year is dedicated to “practicing in the context of the exam.” This essentially means answering questions from old exams as well as becoming familiar with what graders may expect from your answers. Luckily, the test has remained essentially the same and is relatively consistent throughout the years.
“The core of the material has stayed the same for decades,” said Dr. Williams. “Calculus, like many other subjects, isn’t really going to evolve. And I’m hesitant to say that because I always try to avoid giving the impression that mathematics is ‘solved already’ because mathematics is actually growing at a faster rate than it ever has before, there are new theorems and discoveries in mathematics all the time. However calculus, as we learn it in AP Calculus, is as developed as it’ll ever be.”
Despite the lack of time, many students performed very well on the mock exam, and Dr. Williams is confident the class performed well on the actual exam.
The science teachers are also confident that students performed well. Mr. Patrick Gregorich, who has been teaching AP Chemistry for two years, was grateful for the week of review time they had after covering the mass of content over the year.
“We had a solid week of review prior to the exam,” he said. “That week included going over previous years’ exams as well as a year-in-review powerpoint presentation on a Saturday that was put together by at least six other AP teachers across the state. And I think that proved to be very helpful.”
The four hour review period took place on a Saturday in late April, and many students felt it was extremely beneficial, as the sheer amount of content covered was overwhelming.
“Of course, coming in on a Saturday is a pain, but I was glad we did it,” said junior AP Chemistry student Natalie Gammons. “There was so much content that it would have been impossible to study by myself. Having Mr. Gregorich there to answer questions was very helpful.”
As to whether or not the students were adequately prepared for the rigorous exam, Gregorich said, “I think they were prepared, but I always think they could have been better prepared. AP Chemistry is equivalent to a year's worth of general chemistry in college, so students essentially just took two full semesters of lecture and two full semesters of lab in just under a year’s time. It’s a lot of content to master in such a short period of time.”
Though many teachers agreed that the tests were certainly tiring, NHS teachers are confident and hopeful for success. Next year even more AP classes will be added to the curriculum, including AP Physics and AP Computer Science Principles.