Gas station without pumps

2012 May 11

AP exam time

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:44
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This week and next are AP exam time.  One of my blog posts related to the exams (2011 AP Exam Score Distribution), has gotten about 1000 views in the past week, making it my most-viewed post ever with over 6000 views. (My second most-viewed post is West Point Bridge Designer 2011, which I believe is mainly being viewed by middle schoolers trying to cheat on bridge-design exercises.) AP creates penalties for not guessing has also been popular this week (though it is something like 13th on my all-time list), but Advice on AP Bio from those who grade, which might actually be helpful to someone taking an AP test has not been popular lately.

My son is taking two AP tests this year: AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C: Mechanics.  I wanted to take the physics test also, but the school which agreed to administer the test for my son could not get a reply from the College Board about whether adults were allowed to take the test, and so did not order one for me. We had to look around a bit to find a school willing to administer the tests, since the home school umbrella we use (Alternative Family Education) does not proctor any tests except CAHSEE and STAR tests, and there are no schools in the county teaching AP Physics C.  One private school (where my son had attended middle school) was willing to offer the Calculus BC test, since some of their students were taking it, but not the Physics C: Mechanics test.  We finally found a charter school about 4 miles away willing to proctor the Physics C for him.

My son and I did a practice test last night (1998 released multiple-choice questions and 2011 released free-response questions). I was pleased to see that we had covered all the material on the test, but I did not do as well on it as I had hoped.  I made 2 stupid mistakes on the multiple-choice questions.  On an “elevator” problem I forgot to include gravitational potential (my son made the same mistake), and on a friction problem I forgot to include one of the upward forces (my son got that one right).  My son was very tired and stopped working on the multiple-choice after 25 minutes (instead of 45 minutes), and so did not do all the problems—I think he got just enough points for a 5, but it was close.

On the free-response questions, we both did badly, because we did not show enough of our work, and the rubric only allowed about half points for correct answers without preliminary work. I made other mistakes also, and am not pleased with how sloppy a job I did of the free-response questions, though my combined score on the two parts was almost certainly good enough to earn a 5.  (My son again stopped about halfway through, not answering all the questions, making it likely that he would have only earned a 4 overall.  I hope he will not be as tired when he takes the AP Physics test for real.)

I think that the practice test was good for my son, in that it pointed out test-taking practices (like writing down the appropriate formula from which the answer is derived) that would not have occurred to him as necessary.

Earlier this week, he had taken a practice test for AP Calculus BC also.  That practice test was useful for teaching him some other test-taking skills, like looking at the answers for multiple-choice tests and ruling some out.  These are the first tests he’s taken where strategies like that are useful for him. He did not need such tricks for easier tests, like the SAT and SAT II math 2 tests, and the tricks are not much use for harder tests like the AMC-10 and AIME tests (AIME isn’t even multiple choice, unless you consider 1000 possible answers multiple choice). Given his good performance on multiple-choice tests in the past, I had not been aware that he had been just solving all the problems before looking at the possible answers.

None of the mistakes my son made on the practice tests were a result of a misunderstanding.  There was some carelessness due to fatigue, and a couple of problems which he had not answered because he could not see in a glance how to do them and was too tired to think about them.  We went over all the ones he had not answered or had missed and he saw quickly how to do them given a small hint, so I think he’ll do well on the real AP tests (assuming he is awake).


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