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 â€œThose who can, do. Those who canâ€™t, teach.â€ Well, teachers need to â€œdo.â€ We need to take the test.”
This seems like a no-brainer, but itâ€™s almost never done. Teachers will claim theyâ€™re short of time, but in fact itâ€™s because they donâ€™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 â€œtoo goodâ€ to do the work we assign, and that we believe in what we do. Since humility is always a good thing, Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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.