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Mock AP Exams Making a Difference at SHS

Leona Breitenstein
Mock exams provide a “dress rehearsal” for AP exams

Thanks to the education organizations Applied Practice and Mass Insight Education & Research, mock AP exams are offered at SHS, providing students and teachers with insightful information. These practice exams, administered for English, math, and science AP courses, are completely optional, but teachers highly encourage students to take them, especially because they are offered free of charge. Participating students report to school at 8:00 AM on a designated Wednesday morning and typically miss two or three of their morning classes.

Mock exams are scored by Applied Practice, an educational organization that was started 26 years ago by former teachers. The results are shared with AP teachers, who use the information to guide their instruction. In addition to learning their mock exam score, students get valuable feedback before the College Board exams in May.

According to SPS English Department Chair Laura Messner, mock exams offer “an unparalleled opportunity for students to get unbiased feedback on their progress in the course.” Similar to the PSAT, mock exams provide students with a gauge of how they might perform on the actual exam. Also, teachers use the results to reflect on how to improve or adjust their lessons. Messner stated, “It’s a win-win!”

English AP mock exams have already been completed–with AP Literature and Composition students completing their mock exam on Wednesday, January 10th, and AP Language and Composition students testing on Wednesday, January 24th.

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At SHS, AP Language and Composition is the most popular AP course offered, and this year, approximately 133 students completed the mock exam. SHS English teacher Anne Blake has been teaching AP Language and Composition for nine years. She is planning to incorporate whole class lessons and individual student conferences to review the material on the mock exam. Since students receive specific comments for three essays, they learn how to improve their writing before the May 14th College Board exam.

SPS Science Department Chair Patrick Newton explained how they are looking at administering the science mock exams on Wednesday, March 20th, though the date could potentially be changed. Newton discussed how students benefit from taking these practice exams, as they can become increasingly familiar with the length, style, and format of what the real exam will be like.

Math AP mock exams are being administered on Wednesday, April 3rd, each exam being about 180 minutes long. All of these tests are taken in the SHS library, including, AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB and BC, and AP Computer Science Programming and Principles.

Karen Tyler, the Chief Executive Officer of Applied Practice, explained how the purpose of Applied Practice is to provide classroom resources for AP courses and to support the College Board AP program. Tyler noted that although Applied Practice doesn’t have a “formal” relationship with the College Board, they support college AP programs. “We believe we’re really unique,” she commented.

Tyler said mock exams help students build their confidence in a “low-stakes setting” before taking the College Board exams. She stated that mock exams are the “perfect opportunity to sit for the duration of the exams,” which many students never have the chance to do before May. In addition to reviewing reports and student essays, she encourages AP teachers to discuss the correct and incorrect responses to multiple-choice questions with their students. “Circle back and see what’s going on here,” she explained.

For the past several years, SHS has been a partner school with Mass Insight, an organization that provides professional development and student support for AP coursework. Julie Alexander, Senior Content Director for AP English at Mass Insight, described how the organization helps “support students’ success on their AP journey.” Their goal is to ensure the equity of opportunities and access within high schools for students to take AP courses.

Alexander said the mock exam results help inform the content for Mass Insight student study sessions and professional development workshops: “It’s all about unpacking it and realizing where we did well and what we can do.” Noting that mock exams are “dress rehearsals” for the actual exam, Alexander said they can “demystify” the College Board assessment and “remove the fear of failure.” Alexander remarked, “It’s all in place to help students find the best path.”

This year, College Board AP exams will be administered during the weeks of May 6th and May 13th, and SHS students who are taking mock exams have the benefit of knowing what to expect.