Advanced Placement Teachers Take the AP Exam Themselves

take the test

How can teachers prepare students for success on Advanced Placement exams? They can start by taking the test themselves, says Erica Jacobs.

“This may not sound very radical, but teachers rarely take the tests they give even though that is the best teacher training available. Remember the hated-by-teachers adage that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well, teachers need to “do.” We need to take the test.”

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s almost never done. Teachers will claim they’re short of time, but in fact it’s because they don’t want to see the results.”

Teachers whose students are subject to standardized exams – AP, New York Regents, etc. – often rely too much on course review material compiled, edited and distributed by outside sources. These can be handy, but there’s plenty of value in sitting down and taking the test.

You know your curriculum best. You probably designed it and, at the least, you implement it each day. If you stumble on certain parts of the test, your students will likely do the same. Self-testing helps identify curricular shortcomings before your students take the test.

There are additional benefits:

“Taking the test proves something else to our students: It proves that we are not “too good” to do the work we assign, and that we believe in what we do. Since humility is always a good thing, I’m not ashamed to admit that I never get 100 percent on this test.”

Not only should you take tests while designing your curriculum, you should also take the practice exams as your students take them. If you think that’s unnecessary, consider this:

“When some of my students get an answer correct that I’ve missed, their smiles spread from Fairfax to Loudoun, and last the rest of the week. For that alone, taking the test is worth it.”

Spending an hour on a test is a small price to pay to help your students maintain an interest in the AP exam. A little friendly competition might even spice up their preparation.

2 Responses to “Advanced Placement Teachers Take the AP Exam Themselves”

  1. jungsun says:

    I absolutely agree, and have had similar experiences as the ones Erica describes.

    The students who love it when I mess up are the ones who need every bit of encouragement that no, they’re not just stupid.

    It makes pedagogical sense, too, doesn’t it? I give practice tests, whether by a prep company or released exams, so that they learn the thought process behind the type of questions and the content behind the questions. It’s something I stress from day one, whether for my ACT prep or AP prep… In the end, the fact that it’s A and not B doesn’t matter much. It’s why.

    And that’s where taking the tests come in. I’ve found it incredibly helpful when I can say to my kids, “I thought at first the answer was C. But then I looked and realized…” Modeling, isn’t it? And in my short experience, I’ve found that it’s useful for everything (when time allows), not just test prep.

  2. Bob Smith says:

    There is one problem with your argument. Under College Board guidelilnes teachers aren’t allowed to see (much less take) the exams of the class they teach. College Board occasionally releases old exams so teachers can see what types and level of questions the students are expected to answer. Next time, do a little research.

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