Over the course of the last two weeks, hundreds of students here at Andover, myself included, have been competing in the grueling standardized testing decathlon known as the Advanced Placement Exams (APs). What were once optional exams offered as a means to bypass introductory college courses have morphed into an obligatory exercise for students in advanced classes to augment their college applications. Whatever purposes they may once have served, these exams now provide little to no benefit to test takers and should therefore be discontinued.
The whole raison d’être of AP tests—to give high school students the opportunity to gain college credit and skip introductory level courses in college —increasingly appears to be built on a crumbling foundation. Many colleges are no longer allowing students to replace course work with AP scores. According to these colleges, even students who score extremely well on the AP are not necessarily prepared for college level work. With many colleges already phasing out AP exams as a substitute for introductory classes, it’s only a matter of time until the rest follow suit.
Still, many Andover students often amass as many AP-preparatory classes as their schedule will allow. Students often take multiple classes that promise to prepare students for the AP exams in just one year because they believe they will gain an advantage in the college admissions process over otherwise comparable applicants. These classes subject students to extra homework, diminished extracurriculars and increased stress.
To make matters even worse, students will even attempt to teach themselves a year’s worth of information on an AP topic in the months before the exam in hopes of adding another “5” to their score reports.
Worst of all, the exams many students take are often wholly unrelated to these students’ planned fields of study in college, not to mention their personal interests. Many an Andover student has taken the AP examinations in U.S. History, Biology, Calculus or another subject without having even the slightest interest in pursuing the field after high school.
This intense focus on amassing a wide array of accolades as opposed to delving deeply into a topic of personal interest speaks to the larger trend of students believing that doing and being part of as much as possible is a way to stand out in the college admissions process. They have been pushed to believe that quantity, not quality and depth, carries more weight.
To me, it seems that sacrificing the quality of one’s work (namely by trying to study for and take extra AP exams) is no way to bolster one’s transcript, especially if these extra AP exams fall outside of one’s future field of study.
For years, the College Board and its Advanced Placement exams have attracted students because they provided an easy exemption from introductory-level college classes.
Of late, however, these advantages have been disappearing, leaving the Advanced Placement exams much less valuable but still just as burdensome. In years to come, I hope that students will no longer be pressured to take AP exams. Instead, they should take classes that satisfy their own interests, not just those for which the College Board has created an AP exam.
After all, we only have a few years here. We should make sure they count for something more than a few “5”s.
Patrick Monaghan is a new Lower from Gillette, NJ.