Planning for college begins far before freshman year. Those who want to make the most of their education, and dollar, often begin taking college level courses while still in high school. One example of such classes are Advanced Placement (AP) classes. AP classes allow students to complete a test for college credits at the end of the semester and are available for most subjects.

College board recently announced that major changes are underway for AP classes to help students most efficiently achieve these credits. This includes improved formative assessment and adding an integrative experience. The changes were implemented after teachers shared feedback following existing AP classes and after scientists released information from studies that found what skills are needed in college in the 21st century.

One of the biggest changes is the final test. Students will find that the College Board changed test questions to create a greater challenge that promotes deeper learning.

“The redesigned AP exams are increasing their focus on essays and open-ended problems, and reducing the number of multiple-choice questions; the remaining multiple-choice questions are shifting to measure not just content knowledge, but content knowledge and the skill to use that knowledge in meaningful ways essential to college and career success in that discipline,” said Trevor Packer, Head of AP at College Board via statement. “There’s not a single exam question now that measures memorization only. They each evaluate skills and the application of knowledge.”

Teachers believe that the new layout is helping high school students prepare for college. 80 percent of AP biology teachers believer that students are learning more in classes. Students are also tested more regularly than with just one final exam throughout the year. The assessment helps students complete the course with less stress while knowing where they stand.

The new layout is based off the International Baccalaureate program. In this program students spend one year researching a global project with presentations and a seminar project. In the second year students deeply research the projeect and report on their findings.  “Schools and teachers love it because it allows content flexibility while giving external validation of mastery,” said Packer.

In contrast students in the past studied a specific subject, such as 19th century British literature, and deeply studied the subject throughout the year. At the end of the year students would take a test to see how much they learned throughout the year. The new layout is intended to help students absorb and relate the information to their college careers.

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