Posts filed under ‘Advanced Placement’

AP Microeconomics + AP Environmental Science

My daughter found that the essay section of the AP Environmental Science test was easier because the questions were covered in the AP Microeconomics class she was taking that same semester, so, if you’re trying to decide which AP classes to take next year, think about taking both of those the same year.

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January 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

Evaluate your own transcript

If you really want to know how colleges review your transcript, or if you’re a visual learner, here’s the actual form that College of the Holy Cross uses, courtesy of the New York Times.

December 1, 2009 at 6:37 am Leave a comment

College Visit: Harvard

Finally!  We’ve found a college that my low-key, unenthusiastic son describes as “great”!

Harvard Library

Harvard Library

I’ve always been cynical about Harvard’s reputation and I still think it probably has more cachet that it deserves.  And my insight today is that the students probably aren’t as extremely smart as their SAT scores would indicate, because I’m guessing at least half took test prep classes.

We arrived here a bit leery about the residential college approach, based upon what we read on Harvard’s website.  We left feeling that the residential program was a real advantage and part of how Harvard creates the feel of a small liberal arts college inside a major university.

  • Freshmen bonding is promoted by having all freshman housed in one section of campus and eating in a freshmen-only dining hall.  (And it’s  magnificent dining hall that looks like Hogwarts!)  The freshmen have their own drama and music groups.
  • Intermingling of students from all socioeconomic groups, races, geographies, and interests is accomplished by random assignment to a “house”.  (No sorting hat, but yes, it’s a little like Hogwarts.)  No jockeying to get into the “best” house.  No fraternity rush process.
  • But those freshmen relationships are honored by letting students form into “blocks” of up to 8 students who will be “randomly” assigned to a house together.  So they get to stay with their original best friends as they move to a new dorm.
  • The houses have robust social lives and includes faculty that live in the houses and arrange events for their students.  Student eat in their house (but can eat in other houses, too).  Houses have their own libraries & gyms, so you don’t have to leave except for class…which is nice in the middle of winter.

AP credit is only available for scores of 5 on year-long classes, but a student could essentially graduate a year early by using AP credit to replace all of their elective classes.  That’s a little contrary to the idea of a liberal arts college, but at least it helps with the tuition costs.

There are 4 lecture halls like this one, but in different colors

One of 4 huge colorful lecture halls. There is also at least 1 wood paneled lecture hall.

As a teenager, I didn’t like the idea of attending Harvard because the professors in movies like Love Story seemed to be on an inquisition to find students in the big lecture halls who didn’t know the answer, then intimidate and ridicule them.  I wasn’t thrilled to hear that Harvard still has some large classes.  (The picture on the left shows maybe 20% of one lecture hall).  But the admissions department counteracts that by showing a film of the “Justice” class, the biggest and most popular class on campus, in a huge wood paneled lecture hall, and portraying how the professor gets students to participate.  Personally, I’d prefer to be in a smaller class of, say 15, where we each got to participate, but at least it isn’t a boring talking-head lecture.

Bottom line:  impressive brand name, best professors money & reputation can buy, best anything money can buy, diverse student population due to Harvard’s generous financial aid , and a strong residential life.

My husband’s advice:  visit Harvard last or you risk being disappointed by every other college you visit afterwards.

July 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm Leave a comment

Reading List for AP English Lit

Although more students take the AP English Literature test nationally than any other AP test except US History – or maybe because of that fact – it has one of the lowest percentages of students who earn a top score of 4 or 5, at just 27%. How can you help ensure your child does well on this test?

Continue Reading May 31, 2009 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

AP World History recommended reading

My son’s AP World History teacher recommended The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy 1400 to the Present as good reading to prepare for the essay questions on the AP exam.

Continue Reading April 16, 2009 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Depth vs. breadth?

Today Education Week reported results of a new study, first reported in Science Education in December 2008, that concludes a focus on breadth is misguided:

A central finding is that “breadth-based learning, as commonly applied in high school classrooms, does not appear to offer students any advantage when they enroll in introductory college science courses,” the authors conclude, “although it may contribute to scores on standardized tests.”

The authors build their research on a national survey of 8,310 undergraduates enrolled in their first college science course. Students were asked how much time they spent in high school biology, chemistry, and physics classes on various subtopics.

In each subject, the researchers said students had been exposed to a topic in depth if they reported spending at least one month on it—for instance, mechanics or electromagnetism in physics or evolution in biology. They controlled for other factors, such as students’ socioeconomic background and math proficiency.

How much does depth matter?

The results show that students who had spent at least one month on one particular topic earned higher grades in college science courses than students who had not. By contrast, those who had been exposed to a relatively long list of topics, but not in depth, did not have any advantage in college chemistry or physics and were at a disadvantage in biology… Students who experience deeper coverage of physics in high school perform in college as if they had received two-thirds of a year more preparation than those who had the opposite mix of depth and breadth.

One of the complaints voiced about Advanced Placement (AP) classes is that they are “a mile wide and an inch deep”, especially as compared to International Baccalaureate, but that is starting to change:

The College Board, which has been criticized for promoting what some say is a diffuse approach on its Advanced Placement science exams, is redesigning them to emphasize depth and scientific reasoning, said Trevor Packer, a vice president of the New York City-based nonprofit organization. The first of those revisions, to the AP Biology test, will be unveiled in September.

quotes from Education Week, “‘Depth’ Matters in High School Science Studies”

So what can a teacher do?  The study authors conclude:

…teachers should use their judgment to reduce coverage in high school science courses and aim for mastery by extending at least 1 topic in depth over an extended period of time.

March 11, 2009 at 5:23 am Leave a comment

SAT subject tests: what’s your strategy?

Some of the colleges we’ve checked out – but by no means a majority – require SAT subject test scores.

This is a topic on which our high school counselors have given no guidance and I don’t find it in the guidebooks, either.  So what should a student’s strategy be?

The elite math/science focused schools expect 2-3 SAT subject test scores and one has to be the tougher Math 2 test.  I’m surmising that the Math 2 subject test is tougher or requires more advanced math than the SAT or the AP Calculus BC test or both…but I don’t know that to be true.

  • Should a student take both the AP test and the SAT subject test in the same subject?
  • Are the subject tests for the subjects where he did NOT take the AP class or test?
  • Are they tougher than the AP tests?
  • What scores are considered good?
  • Should a student study for the subject tests?
  • Are they just for placement or do they figure into the admissions decision?

It amazes me that, with all the advice out there on college admissions, I’m finding almost nothing on this topic.

February 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

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