We did a mock AP exam today. I must say, grading AP exams is sooo much easier than grading normal tests, because I don’t have to decide on partial credit. Right or wrong. Use the scoring guidelines. Done.
Note: if you mostly want to read what I learned and what we’ll be focusing on, skip towards the end.
My first year, we didn’t do a mock exam. We had two weeks of review, and that was it. That year was rough, in a lot of ways. That summer, I went to an AP Summer Institute, which helped a ton. Actually, it was while I was there that the scores came out. I must say, it was a little embarrassing to be surrounded by AP teachers and to find out that none of your students passed the exam.
I revamped the course, drawing extensively, on what I learned at the summer institute, and I redid precalculus, and things started getting better. Last year was less rough. Not good, not yet, but less rough. Six students took the class. Two passed, and with fives. Another one or two probably could have, but senioritis, video games, and basketball season got in the way. Not good, not yet, but better.
One of those two fives was a junior. He stayed and did BC as an independent study with me this year. (We typically only offer AB.)
Which brings us to this year. I’ve been feeling pretty good about this year. This was the first group of students who’d taken my advanced precal class, and they were a lot stronger. I was on the watch a lot earlier for senioritis, and stepped in to squash it before it got to be too big of a problem. I wasn’t quite sure how’d they do on the mock exam, though. We’ve been working free response problems for the last two weeks. They’ve been scoring their own work and telling me that they’ve been doing mostly 5s, 6s, 7s, some 8s. Those are good, and that’s certainly on track for passing. But when they weren’t working together, how would they do? And were they being generous? And what about the fact that this is a three hour exam? How would they handle brain fatigue?
They rocked it.
I’m so proud of these kids. The blew my socks off. The scores break down this way:
5 – 3 students
4 – 3 students
3 – 2 students
2 – 1 student
1 – 1 student
80% of them passed! And one of those 3s was within 3 points of being 4s! Y’all. These kids. They rock. The 5s were pretty comfortable margins, too. The BC student got a 5, too. And this is just the mock exam.
But the best part…a student who has struggled all year, a student who works slowly and doesn’t like writing things down got a 3! And he’s only about 3 points away from getting a 4, and just showing more work and explaining his answers would get him there. He needs a 4 for where he’s going to college. I was so happy – he’s sooo close to it – that I almost started crying in the middle of precal’s All Sins Forgiven Test.
There were a lot of common mistakes, as there always are. The main thing I want them to focus on is showing all of their work and all of their reasoning. Don’t just tell me the critical points; show me that you set the derivative equal to zero. Don’t just tell me the area; show me the integral. Two of the 3s would have been 4s if they’d shown more work. Use words instead of arrows.
We also need to pay attention to negatives and u-substitution more, and we probably need a refresher on differential equations. That’s one of the topics that we haven’t worked problems on yet, though, and we’re doing that next week, so I’m not surprised.
Oh, and the MC was kind of rough. The free response was generally better, and sometimes by a lot. I’m not sure what to do about that – suggest they get an AP review book and just work a bunch of problems? Or maybe I’ll dig out my old one and just give them a bunch of problems.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the exam. I think I’ll split them up into groups, give them the keys, and let them talk it through. Hearing it from a peer can be better than hearing it from a teacher, and teaching a peer is always a good thing.
This is just the mock exam. We still have a week and a half to really knuckle down and dig in. Most of those 3s could easily become 4s, and the 4s could possibly turn into 5s depending on how badly they want it. I’m a little nervous, though, that they’ll see these scores and start slacking off. I’ll have to push them a little harder this next week to make sure they finish strong.
For the first time, I’m actually looking forward to getting score reports in July.
So – the tl;dr version:
1.) Go to an AP Summer Institute. Those things are super helpful.
2.) Make sure pre-cal is where it needs to be so that they’re prepared.
3.) Mock exams help them and me both see what to focus on in the last few weeks of review.
4.) I love my kids.