Multiple Choice Portion of AP Exams

So many of my students detest the Multiple Choice Questions portion of AP exams. However, with some guidance, a student can easily conquer this portion of the exam. Here is the caveat:  this portion of the exam requires practicing the right skills. However, to the inexperienced student, knowing what the right skills are remains a major challenge. This is why most students need a teacher or a tutor to help them ace the AP Exam.

After going over their multiple choice questions, I had  a conversation with two of my AP Human Geography students. Their problem with certain questions of the AP Multiple Choice Question portion of the exam were due to their lack of strategic thinking when answering the question. We had come up against a problem that was a definition-identification question, and I asked them to go through each of the options strategically together. I told them to go as slowly as possible, and to think through why each option was correct or incorrect. While talking of each option together, they both reached the right conclusion, after careful examination.

During multiple choice exams students sometimes lack the care to pay attention to details. They want to get through the exam quickly–which is definitely important–but their choice to prioritize speed over scrutinizing the question got them into trouble.

That’s why I advise my students to first take exams without paying attention to speed. During practice exams, students should focus on developing the critical thinking skills to answer high-level multiple choice questions for any kind of AP Exam–from science, to the humanities. After achieving high numbers of correct questions, the student should then move on to practicing during a timed test.

Tutors or teachers are best suited to help students simulate a timed exam. Tutors also know how to gradually introduce the timed test to a student. They know the point at which a student is ready for a timed exam, and they know how to help students become accustomed to timed exams so that students don’t feel overly anxious. Moreover, tutors know how to proctor exams properly, and they know how to score exams in the same manner as an AP Scorer.

With a tutor’s help, any student can become thoroughly prepared for test day!

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

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About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.

 

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AP Exam-Steps to Write a DBQ or Synthesis Paper

DBQs and Synthesis papers continue to be very challenging to AP students. As I mentioned in my previous post about what a DBQ or Synthesis paper is [which you can find here] I will explain the method to write a successful DBQ or Synthesis paper on your AP Exam.  (For clarification, a the DBQ is a Document-Based Question for social science exams, while the Synthesis paper is a similar for the English Language and Literature Exams.)

First, you should read the prompt carefully and bullet point what the directions are asking you to do! Generally, for the these types of essays, the directions ask you to use prior knowledge of the subject area as well as the given sources to create an argument or answer the question. First, note what your prior knowledge is on your scratch paper. Write how you would answer the question or the prompt based on only prior knowledge. You should try to formulate an answer before looking at the sources because this will guide your interpretation when surveying the sources.

The next step is to actually look through the sources. Note each author’s argument in the sources and the way that they made their argument, also known as the author’s rhetoric.The student must identify rhetorical devices on the AP English Language and Literature Exams, while on the AP World and US History Exams, the student must look for historical data and author biases. Understanding an author’s bias on a history exam is one of the requirements of the DBQ for these exams. Biases affect the way that historical actors record history, so as historians, we have to make sure to account for certain biases when analyzing the historical actor’s written work. We cannot always take their writings at face value, for historical actors may have had a certain agenda when writing the document.

Mark up each document and leave yourself a note in summary of the document so that you can go back to the document later and remember in detail what the document argued or meant. For the AP English Language and Literature Exam, many teachers advise their students to mark the document’s tone through a visual aid: a “+” represents a positive tone, while a “-” represents a negative tone. This quick representation of tone helps when the student begins writing the response.

The next step is to outline your argument, starting with your thesis. In general, an English Language thesis requires the student to analyze an argument, either historical or contemporary. An English Literature thesis compels the student to analyze the author’s use of rhetorical devices to create a successful piece of literature. On social science exams, the student must create a thesis that his historically-sound and also uses the given sources as evidence for their argument.

Once you have created a thesis, and an outline, you are ready to begin writing your paper. Good luck!

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

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About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.
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AP Exams-What is a DBQ?

When you first begin writing, it is hard enough to formulate an argument and back it up with evidence. Synthesizing information is not something that comes very easily to high school writers. I remember when I was assigned my first Document Based Question (DBQ), and I was anxious about where to begin. Luckily, my teachers had effective lesson plans, and I understood how to write a DBQ after some time and practice. In this blog post, I will explain what a DBQ is and why it is on several AP Exams, in order to show parents and students that this exam question is actually easier than the others!

Document Based Question may seem like a vague term. You may be wondering: what kind of documents is this title referring to? What kind of prompt will I have to answer? How can I get the most points on this part of the exam? I will try to answer these questions for you in this blog post!

The title of the essay question format, Document Based Question, actually refers to documents. These documents are pieces of historical or contemporary news articles, historical sources like diaries, letters or legal documents, pictures, maps, political cartoons, and many other types of documents. Instead of having to come up with your own reasons why your argument is correct, you are given evidence by the College Board on this part of the exam. This evidence should guide your thesis and the rest of your essay. You should always go through the documents thoroughly, in order to see how you should compose your thesis.

Usually, prompts on AP English Language and Composition Exams ask questions about contemporary issues and ask students to formulate arguments about these issues. For example, a popular AP English Language exam question focuses on the ramifications of social media on society. This is different from the prompts a student will be assigned on Social Science Exams, which pose questions that pertain to the subject matter of the course.

On AP US History exams, you are required to use at least six documents in your analysis, while on AP English Language and Composition exams, you are required to use just three. Depending on the exam, the number of documents needed in the analysis changes, so be sure to ask your teacher or tutor about the specifics of your exam. By correctly analyzing the documents and using more than the specified number of documents on your exam, you will gain extra points on that portion of the essay.

You may still have questions about why this type of essay exam is important to assess your knowledge of the course, especially after completing an entire multiple choice portion of the exam prior to this. DBQs are important because they require the high-level analysis that the College Board cannot judge just from the multiple choice portion of the exam. In addition, DBQs are important because these questions are the most like those you will find in a real college end-of-term exam. In fact, in humanities courses in many colleges, multiple choice exams are rarely used. Professors more than likely will require students to write essays in class in order to pass their class’s final!

My next blog post will focus on how to write a DBQ. Stay tuned for more info!

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

rachel-close-up-good-pic (183x200)

About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.
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Ace Your AP United States History Test

The second-most popular Advanced Placement Exam in 2013 was Advanced Placement United States History, which was just slightly less popular than the Advanced Placement English Language Test.[1] The course’s curriculum introduces the student to the US’s major historical themes and events. Because this class is widely taken among AP students, this post will focus on some advice that I normally give my students to prepare for the exam.

A good AP United States History test student should be attentive in class and write detailed notes during their teacher’s lecture. The teacher is an expert on American history and can provide many major insights and analyses that you will not necessarily get when reading the textbook that accompanies the class. United States History is a discipline with varying opinions and emphases on differing events.

A teacher may have done in-depth research into the Proclamation of 1763 and its ramifications for the United States, and therefore can provide the student with insights that may not be found in a typical textbook. Their research will enrich a student’s understanding of the event that can be later written on the AP US History Essay portion of the exam. Moreover, tutors like me who were United States History majors may also have done intense research into American History topics, and can add analytical perspectives to a student’s understandings of US History that could not necessarily be found in any textbook or Prep-book.

That is not to say that the student should not read the textbook, they certainly should. Reading the textbook will help the student to understand the narrative arc of United States History. In fact, I often advise students to read their chapters more than once before the AP Exam, because it will help them remember the sequence of major events. While reading their textbook, they should take special note of any pictures or documents in the textbook, because these primary sources will likely be referenced in either the Multiple Choice or the Essay Portion of the exam. It may be helpful for the one to write an analysis of several of these primary sources as practice for the AP Exam’s questions of interpretation.

Students should also try to immerse themselves into US history. They should read classic American history novels, like The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Great Gatsby. By understanding the characters found in these books, students will have a greater personal grasp of history.

If you take these steps, you too will be prepared to ace your AP US History Test!

[1] “10 Most (and Least) Popular Advanced Placement (AP) Subjects.” Education by the Numbers.org. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/10-least-popular-advanced-placement-ap-subjects_930/>.

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

rachel-close-up-good-pic (183x200)

About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.

 

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Preparation for AP Exam Essays

Six years ago, when I was in an AP English Language and Composition class in high school, in-class essays were the bane of my existence. The difficulty stemmed from the intense and frequent AP English Language and Composition practice test essays that we completed in class. There were so many, and we had to complete these practice essays at least once a week! However, as much as I despised doing these weekly practice essays, I completely understood why my teacher imposed these assignments on our class. The assignments were necessary to us to become fluent writers.

Six years later, I recommend to my students that they write as much as possible. I tell my students that it doesn’t matter what he or she is writing about at first. My goal is to have my students become comfortable processing their thoughts through the written word. The practice of writing habitually—in a journal, blog, or a letter to a friend—will furnish the student with the ability to apply thought to the page. When the student becomes   used to string-of-consciousness essay writing, the essay portion of the exam would not seem as frightening or insurmountable.

I also advise students to regularly write about the subjects they are studying in school, as writing out the ideas on paper will help them to remember information that could appear on tests. Keeping a journal or detailed notes about what is going on in class will definitely help the student to be able to work out intricate ideas and analysis through writing. Later on, this experience with analysis will also help students to ace their exams.

When a student takes an  AP exam with a writing component, they should prepare before writing. Some teachers and tutors suggest that students follow formulaic pre-planning steps, such as creating bullet points or clustering ideas. Both of these methods involve brainstorming. In the bullet points method, the student can jot down ideas and  keep these ideas in order by putting a bullet point in front of each separate idea. In a similar exercise, a student can create a cluster of related ideas separated by circles. After this brainstorming exercise, the student can then begin the outline for the paper with a thesis and a topic sentence for each paragraph.

Despite the importance of pre-planning, the ability to process thought into words is arguably the most important step to achieve high marks on the AP Exam Essays. Pre-planning can only take the student so far; if a student knows how to turn thought into prose, he or she will most definitely succeed. Writing practice will prepare the student to answer all necessary components of the essay prompt with style and efficiency to well in their preparation for AP Exam Essays.

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

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About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.
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Get Ready for AP Exams

In the middle of March students and parents look forward to Spring Break, vacations, and some needed relaxation time. After almost an entire school year of getting through another academic grade, families and their students have cause to feel worn out.  For those parents who help their children with homework, Spring Break is a needed respite from the homework routine.

Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of bad news for some parents and students.

Those who are studying for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams have a deadline on the horizon–the two weeks in May devoted to taking AP Exams are creeping ever closer. As I mentioned in my post about why AP scores matter, which you can find here, parents and their students should use this time to begin preparations for the exams.

Many parents don’t know how to help their child succeed.  They may not be familiar with the content of the exams themselves–AP courses are on the level of college classes and require specially trained instructors to teach students the materials covered on the exam. Parents and students need to collaborate to come up with a study plan to ensure their students do the best they can when test day rolls around.

My advice is to have a family discussion to set clear goals for the student. Parents and their student should decide if the student should aim for a 3, 4, or 5 on the exam. Every student learns uniquely and at their own pace; outlining a plan is a surefire way to support the student’s education. Creating realistic goals for achievement allows students to improve their confidence.

There are many options to accommodate test preparation. Firstly, the student and parents can reach out to a teacher of the respective AP Course and ask for supplemental material. The teacher may be able to provide the student with extra practice exams so that the student can master the exam before the test date. Secondly, students and parents could prepare for the exam together with test preparation books. I have found this method to be effective.

Students and parents should also consider tutoring for the exams that they deem the most important for the student’s college goals. By adequately preparing for exams with tutors, parents and students can save money and time in the long run. If the student achieves a score of three or higher on the test, depending on the college the student attends, he or she can be awarded up to 30-40 hours of introductory college credit (depending on the number of exams taken)! Tutors, like many teachers of AP Exams, have expertise that covers the breadth of the exam’s content. Unlike many teachers, however, tutors can individualize the lesson plan for each student’s learning style. This equips the student with the best resources to tackle the exam, get great scores, and acquire college credit.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about the content of this post, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at rachelsstuart@gmail.com.

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

rachel-close-up-good-pic (183x200)

About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.
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Do AP Exam Scores Really Matter?

When I was in high school–the nerd that I am–I thought that AP Classes were adequately challenging. The endless essays and readings didn’t faze me! But, I know that was far from the truth for many of my peers. They struggled with the course load. They’d taken the AP courses in pursuit of getting into their dream schools, whichever school that may be, but my peers never believed that the AP scores would actually help them when they got to College. They just thought the scores were a ticket into their college of choice, not an integral part of helping them to achieve the most they could in their undergraduate career. To be honest, I didn’t really see it that way either. I had found classes that showed me a different side of learning, but I also did not see how AP scores would really matter once I got to college. I was just looking to get my foot in the (best) door.

In all things, experience brings wisdom. I remember receiving my assigned time to enroll in my first semester of classes late in the summer. The email from the university had come unexpectedly, and I was excited that my enrollment time was so soon. In fact, I felt quite puzzled because I knew other freshman whose enrollment times were way later than mine. I thought, what makes me so special?

Little did I know that the AP Scores I had sent to my college played an essential role in this process. Later, when I had access to the transcripts section of the “Student Portal” (the online website through which a student enrolls in classes, checks grades, financial aid awards, among other things), I had achieved Sophomore-status as a Freshman. But, I had never attended college before! It was really encouraging to feel that I had a head start.

When I finally declared my major, I had another surprise. The introductory AP History courses that I took (AP World and AP US History) helped me to place out of the 100-level classes necessary to the requirements of my major. Instead of taking the boring 100-level classes, I could take Special Topics courses, take an extra elective for fun, or simply take a lighter course-load that semester and pursue an internship instead. The flexibility that the AP credit had given me allowed me to develop new interests and skills outside of my major.

Bottom line–if you are thinking that AP scores won’t help you in the long run, you’re wrong. They totally can and will help you to get the most out of your college experience! More information on the AP Exam here https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/takingtheexam/about-exams

Any questions? Contact me at rachelsstuart@gmail.com

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Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

rachel-close-up-good-pic (183x200)

About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.

 

 

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