Examining the Exams News

Teachers, students weigh value of AP exam

By AK Alilonu ’16
THE ROUNDUP

The Washington Examiner reported this summer that taking Advanced Placement exams barely helps your chances of college graduation. 

The study it cited came from the National Bureau of Economic Research and was published May of last school year, when many students were taking these tests. 

To some teachers, this was no surprise.

“It’s a whole different ballgame in college,” said Mrs. Kristin Venberg.

Mrs. Venberg teaches AP U.S. History and has been teaching Advanced Placement courses for more than 20 years. In her opinion, AP classes may be college-level, but that means very little in the case of being in college.

“Being prepared for college and finishing college are two different things,” she said. 

Mr. Gil Martinez has also taught Advanced Placement classes and used to work in Notre Dame’s Undergraduate Admissions Office.

He said The Washington Examiner could have misrepresented the AP exam. 

“The purpose of the exam is not to predict graduation rates,” he said. “The AP test itself is meant for placement and for credit.” 

In spite of this, some students said they question the worth of the AP curriculum because it doesn’t necessarily make them learn. 

Eason Skelnik ’17, a junior who is taking three different AP classes this year, said being an AP student doesn’t mean you learn more. 

“Some people in APs don’t do their best; they try to slack off as much as they can in AP,” he said. “Honestly, if you try to learn really hard, if you’re just in a regular class, you can learn just as much.” 

Mr. Martinez had similar ideas about Advanced Placement.

“The quality that you take out of the experience is really going to depend on how the material is presented by the teachers,” he said. 

Extracurriculars kept Michael Hemmerlin ’18 from taking AP U.S. History this year, and he said that AP students could just be those with more time on their hands. 

“I think a lot of it is not necessarily being smarter,” he said, “but the amount of time that they put into it.” 

He hopes to get into AP when he’s a junior. 

Mr. Martinez also noted the amount of dedication that Advanced Placement requires. 

“You have to have a record here of a certain drive, a certain level of performance, in order to be accepted,” he said. “If you’re shy of that, that can spell trouble if you were to be put into an AP course where the amount of work jumps, in some cases exponentially.” 

But he said that overall, the AP curriculum is good for students.

“Right now, I think the AP program, for all we little things we complain about,” he said, “is the best kind of top-level curriculum that can be offered.”