AP Students conflicted on long finals

Varsha Ravi, Managing Editor

The dragging monotony of finals season has long since ceased to be a surprise.

But some students were surprised by the length of their AP final exams in late December.

Last semester, two AP classes had finals that took some students a lot longer than the two-hours allotted per class in the exam schedule.

“I stayed until around 4:30,so around five hours of total test time,” senior Kristin Mifsud said of her AP Economics final. “The final was just so long.Like when the bell rang, my entire class just sort of laughed, because none of us were even close to being done. I personally wasn’t even halfway through the final when the bell rang.”

Students were caught off guard by the length of the final, ill prepared for the time it would take out of their day which was supposed to end at 12:40 p.m.

“I had a college application due the next day, and I needed to work on it,” Mifsud said. “Luckily, I was still able to get it in on time, but what happened didn’t help the situation.”

Senior Ming Chan was one of the few students who finished the sixth period AP Econ test when the bell rang. He said he’d heard about the length of the final from other students, and had gone in with the knowledge that it would be fairly time consuming.

“Obviously it’s the final so it’s going to be longer than other tests, but it did feel a lot longer,”Chan said. “[But] I didn’t find it particularly difficult. Just after hearing from fourth period, I kind of went into the test with this determination that I was gonna finish by the time the bell rang and I didn’t really care about what grade I got.”

Students in AP Physics also found themselves staying after class to complete the exam.But the long length of the final did not surprise many students.

“Compared to the other tests in the class, it was about normal difficulty,” junior Vatsalya Verma said. “I felt like the final was well designed to see if the student understood everything, considering it’s an AP class.”

Other AP Physics students agreed.

“I loved the final because it covered relevant topics,” junior Jerry Gao said. “That I knew, of course.”

AP Physics teacher Debbie Sater explained that the format of the final was a mixture of conceptual multiple choice and actual calculation problems, modeled after the AP exam that students will take in May.

“It was basically hitting the big topics that’d we’d covered over the semester,” Sater said. “Since it’s AP, it’s comprehensive, so basically everything was fair game for the final. Honestly, the people who’d done their homework should’ve been able to finish it in two hours,” she said.

The length and the difficulty of the AP Physics final was no surprise in the slightest to Gao. “I was actually prepared for it,” Gao continued. “Like I was confident that the final would be long, and my schedule wasn’t packed, so it was me.”

But AP Economics students weren’t nearly as prepared for the length of their final.

“Honestly I thought the final was too long,” said a senior boy who wished to remain anonymous because he was being critical of the test. “I would’ve liked it to be maybe 20 questions shorter… but I didn’t want to leave before I finished the test because it was such a significant part of my grade.”

AP Economics teacher Kelly McCoy explained the logic behind her final, which had 100 multiple choice questions and two free response questions.

She said she allowed students to stay after school to take as long as they needed to finish the final. McCoy said she alsorounded up students’ final grades that were on the border. For example, students who earned 79 percent in the class had their grades rounded up to B’s, and students with 89s had grades rounded up to A’s.

“Everything is a cost benefit analysis,” McCoy explained.“For me, the way that I figured it out is that there’s more benefit associated with allowing kids to have roughly 15 minutes in the beginning to review stuff. I also think it’s more beneficial to allow kids to relax, especially because again, it’s an AP class, and I want them to get to the 9.”

McCoy said the final, which is identical in format to past years with the exception of an additional extra-credit FRQ,

usually has never taken students this long to complete.

McCoy said the length of the final was in part because it allowed students to achieve the grade that they wanted in the class, and required a certain amount of points and questions to meet that objective. The final accounted to nearly 30 percent of students’ grades.

“My goal is not time, my goal is achievement,” McCoy said. “Nobody was forced to do anything, I allowed them to do that. So if you needed more time, I allowed you to take it.”

Since students complained about the final, McCoy shortend and placed a time limit on her last test in January, AP Economics students said.

Not all AP classes had finals that extended beyond two hours. AP Statistics teacher Ghazala Niazi, planned for a much shorter final that left extra time for her students.

“I looked for College Board AP questions in line with chapters that we’d covered over the semester – multiple choice questions for those chapters,” Niazi said. “I wanted it to take no more than an hour and 30 minutes, since that’s how long the actual multiple choice section is on the AP exam. I wanted to replicate it as much as I could.”

Niazi said that she believed her students would be able to complete her final in the time allotted.

“I think it was well balanced,” Niazi said. “I think there’s a lot of reading in statistics.. but once you’ve done the reading and established the question, then the actual question on data analysis is quite straightforward.”