AP Aftermath: Seniors feel confident about U.S. History, Computer Science exams

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.

Senior Bella Mathisen took the AP Physics 1 exam, on which 5.2 percent of test-takers received 5s this year, after a year in teacher Glenn Mangold’s class. Smita Sikaria, ’18, studied AP English Literature with teacher Jason Hinajosa and took the AP exam, on which 5.6 percent of students received 5s, a record low. Senior Jack Christian was in teacher Sue Nellis’s penultimate AP U.S. History class and took the exam, on which 10.4 percent of test-takers received 5s. Senior Heidi Johnson took the AP Computer Science Principles exam, on which 14.4 percent of students received 5s, after being in Country Day’s first AP Computer Science Principles class, taught by Elissa Thomas.


Senior Bella Mathisen

Q: How did you prepare?

A: (Physics teacher Glenn) Mangold gave us old (AP) tests, and I studied those. I also went over my old tests, (but) those were just a quick overview of everything.


Q: How do you think you did?

A: Probably a 3. The multiple choice was super easy, but I didn’t do as well on the free response.


Q: What was the hardest section of the exam?

A: The free response was really hard, but I think that was more my problem. I’m not very good at explaining my thinking process. I’m better at just doing it, which was why the multiple choice was so easy. Having to explain how or why I did it really tripped me up in the free response.


Smita Sikaria, ’18

Q: How did you prepare?

A: Before the test (English teacher Jason Hinojosa) gave the class the option of either taking the English period to study for the AP by yourself or reading the rest of “Persepolis,” which was the book we were reading at the time. I chose to study for the AP in the library. I had a Princeton Review book, so I just went through that.


Q: How do you think you did?

A: I don’t know. The (reading) passages were harder than I expected them to be. The first passage was in really old English, and I didn’t really understand it that well. I wish I had skipped that one and left it for the very end because the rest of the passages were a lot easier, but I didn’t have enough time for them because I spent so much time on the first passage. I think I would have done better if I did the passages in a different order, but I still think I did OK.


Q: Was there anything you wish you had studied more?

A:  (In) one (section) we had to write about a poem, and in the beginning of the year we analyzed a lot of poems, but we never wrote about them. So maybe looking through some example essays (about poems) that the College Board provides would have been a good way to study so I would have known how other people were writing and formatting their essays.


Q:What was the hardest part of the exam?

A: There were two parts – the multiple choice and the three essays – and I think the multiple choice were more difficult for me because there’s only one right answer. Where as for the free response you can really take the essay however you want it to be, and it’s about the quality of your writing rather than picking the right answer.


Senior Jack Christian

Q: How did you prepare?

A: Mostly by studying really hard every night for (teacher Sue Nellis’s) daily quizzes. Each quiz was (focused) on a different period of time. By studying each night (and) just focusing on one time period, I got to know the information really well. (The whole AP U.S. History class) had a review session at Ms. Nellis’s house.

(Also) the two nights before the exam I did some practice multiple choice as well, which definitely helped.


Q: How do you think you did?

A: Overall, I think I did very well. After taking Ms. Nellis’s class, I felt very prepared. I knew the history of the United States like the back of my hand, and the multiple choice I found to be easier than her multiple-choice tests.


Q: What was the hardest section of the exam?

A:  The long essay question, as it requires you to recall all the information you used to support your argument, and there are no documents like on the multiple choice and short answer.


Senior Heidi Johnson

Q: How did you prepare?

A:  I mostly prepared in class. Each day we filled out a sheet that summarized each unit and did practice multiple choice.


Q: How do you think you did?

A: I think I did well. I – and most people I talked to – thought it wasn’t too hard.


Q: What was the hardest section of the exam? Was there anything you wish you had studied more?

A:  The actual exam was only 74 multiple-choice questions, but we also submitted projects in April that count  as part of the AP score. (The project was made up of) an explore task ,where each person researched a computing innovation that they chose and answered questions about it. (There was also a) create task, which was probably the hardest, because you had to code an app.

—By Kristine Schmitz

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