AP Aftermath: Junior reflects on exam after taking Country Day’s first AP Music Theory class; senior well-prepared for Biology exam

From May 7 to 18, students around the country sat down in libraries, unused classrooms and even gyms to bubble in scantron sheets for one or multiple of the 38 AP (Advanced Placement) exams.

Scores were released in California and other regions of the West Coast on July 5. In this four-part series, test-takers were interviewed to shed light on this two-week phenomenon and give advice.

Junior Larkin Barnard-Bahn was a part of Country Day’s first AP Music Theory class with teacher Bob Ratcliff; she then took the AP, an exam on which 22.5 percent of test-takers received 5s this year. Junior Jackson Margolis took the AP Calculus AB test, on which 19 percent of students received 5s, after a year in math teacher Chris Millsback’s class. Senior Abby LaComb studied AP Biology with teacher Kellie Whited and took the exam, on which 7.1 percent of students received 5s.


Junior Larkin Barnard-Bahn

Q: How do you think you did on the exam?

A: Not as well as I (hoped). I was nervous and a bit congested, so I didn’t do so well on the listening parts.

(The sections include) sight singing, multiple choice, which was (followed by) free response and a four-part writing.


Q: What do you study in the course?

A: AP Music Theory is definitely focused on being able to analyze, write and sing music. We don’t analyze a specific piece (of music); we analyze different pieces in order to learn how different musical tools function. The end goal of the class was not only to learn music theory for the AP test, but also to be able to compose by the end (of the year).


Q: How did you prepare for the exam?

A: The whole last unit was (about) the preparation for the test. We talked about (test-taking) strategies and did two practice tests.


Q: What was the hardest part of the test?

A: Listening, because there were a lot of harmonic dictations, where you had to listen and identify different types of chords. I made some mistakes on them.

(We take the test) without the knowledge of what pieces will be on the exam, and sometimes it’s a wild card. Some types of music are harder to analyze than others, so (we) just hope that the music isn’t too different from what (we) practiced with.


Junior Jackson Margolis

Q: How do you think you did on the exam?

A: I did a bit above average. I did well on the free response but lacked on the multiple-choice section of the test.


Q: How did you prepare for the exam?

A: I did all of (Millsback’s practice tests). (While) everyone would say they didn’t study enough, I think I’m happy with how I studied.


Q: For you, what was the hardest part of the test?

A: Calculator section multiple choice.


Senior Abby LaComb

Q: How do you think you did on the exam?

A: I think I did OK. There wasn’t one specific part that was super easy or difficult. There were definitely some easy multiple-choice (questions) and definitely some easy parts of the short answers (and) essay. Overall, I think it was pretty spread out in terms of difficulty.

Some (free-response questions) had a few possible answers, and each question included many topics we had learned throughout the year. On one of our practice exams, there was a cladogram, (which is used to represent a hypothetical relation between animals;) there was also one on the AP.


Q: How did you prepare for the exam?

A: We did some review in class, and other than that I just ended up going through old notes.

We reviewed topics such as cellular respiration, photosynthesis, the cellular pathway, the immune system and the nervous system before the AP so those topics were fresh in our brains.

—By Ming Zhu

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