AP Exam

Are there any AP teachers in our group who would briefly address the current state of the exam in terms of writing/grammar/essay requirements?

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16 thoughts on “AP Exam”

  1. The French, German, and Spanish exams are aligned, and I believe others are as well. Consequently, what you can about one of the exams is applicable to others.

    Gone is the cloze activity. Gone is the storyboard (pictures used to narrate a story).

    One section of the exam deals with interpretive communication. Test takers read one or two texts and a graphic as well as read a text, listen to a text, and view a graphic followed by answering a series of multiple choice questions about the texts.

    The Interpersonal communication portion of the test asks students to 1) write an e-mail in response to an advertisement or e-mail prompt and 2) participate in a “conversation”. The conversation has been pre-recorded, and I must say that I am impressed with the way it has been constructed. You don’t have to have specific vocabulary, but if you answer the questions, the whole conversation makes sense.

    The Presentational communication portion asks students to synthesize information and then make an oral presentation. The writing portion gives students a text on a subject and then write an essay using information from the article and their own knowledge. For example, after reading about internet use in Germany, students write about how local students relate to social media compared to students in German-speaking countries.

    There are no discrete-item grammar or vocabulary portions of the test. Readers are instructed to grade free-response portions of the exam holistically. “Grammar errors” are considered only when they interfere with comprehension. Failing to put in an accent mark, for example, would not lower the writer’s score.

    1. I’m just getting familiar with this Spanish AP Language and Culture exam this year. Honestly, I don’t see how any non-heritage student could do well on this test. It just seems too hard even for the best students with 4 years of classroom study.

      We’re having our Spanish heritage kids take it. That’s all. They have a chance.

      1. Sean, I think you underestimate what your kids are acquiring. As I mentioned elsewhere, I do not teach to the exam, but my students still pass the German AP exam. It’s possible that the “cut scores” are higher for Spanish because students are competing with heritage and native speakers.

        This is one of the great weaknesses and fallacies of norm-referenced tests (and I believe AP is norm referenced): they do not tell you how well you did; they tell you only how well you did in comparison with everyone else. Hello! I could be really good, but if everyone else did better, then my score will be low. On the other hand, I could be far below standard, but others were worse, my score will be high. Norm-referenced tests tell you nothing about how you compare to an objective standard.

  2. Robert, what types of activities do you do in the upper levels to prepare for the AP? What does your class look like? Also, can I copy and paste your response in an email?

  3. The Chinese AP test has this format:

    Listening: Overhear several brief conversations. Pick from English choices of answers about it.
    Overhear a longer audio twice (often staged like a phone message). Pick from English choices of answers about it.

    Reading: Read short passages, like a chart or a sentence from a sign. Pick from English choices of answers about it — some broad questions and some specific.

    Speaking: Conversation simulation. They tell the topic and setting for the “conversation” in English. There are 6 related questions & students answer each in 20 seconds.
    Culture presentation. Students are told a somewhat specific cultural topic (last year was to describe a Chinese legend or folk tale and its significance; other times it’s been to describe a food from a holiday & its significance; I expect something on Chinese traditional arts is likely). They have 4 min. to plan, and then 2 min. to speak about the topic.

    Writing: Story based on 4 pictures. They type for 15 min. based on what is in the pictures. (Easiest part for my students, probably!)
    Email response. They read a 4-paragraph email which includes some questions, and then type a response for 15 min.

    Zero specific grammar testing, and no handwriting, either. Based on the scores I hear about, the grading is on communication of messages and not on accuracy in their writing & speaking.

    1. Actually — for students with a few years of Chinese, the tasks expected on the AP aren’t that bad. The native speaker speed of speech is also fine for CI-trained students after this many years. But the level of formal language heard, and the amount of vocabulary expected, is quite unreasonable. It’s intentionally giving a lot of challenging language, I believe, to see if students can hear or read enough to get answers right without knowing everything.

      I have my first class of AP test takers now. I’m hopeful that they all get at least a 3, and mostly expect that they will. They’ve been a fun group to work with.

  4. Hi Jeff,

    Yes, you may copy and paste my response – just give me credit. πŸ™‚

    I don’t teach to the exam, and I deal with mixed-level classes (German 3-4-AP all in a single classroom at the same time, mostly German 3 but some German 4 and AP).

    For my curriculum, I use a two-year cycle so that students don’t repeat the same material. There’s an A year and a B year. I’ll describe each one briefly.

    The A year (which I would use as year 3 if my classes were separate) has two overarching “units”, each about a semester long. In the first semester, we do a virtual move to Vienna. Students role play older versions of themselves as university students who have moved to Vienna to study and work. We learn to get around the city, navigate the transportation system, rent a room or flat, sightsee, etc. By the end of the semester, students could go to Vienna and know their way around. (I’ve had students do it with their families) Second semester we read German literature: poetry and fairy tales. (I love the fact that fairy tales are a significant part of German literature.) Next year when I do this part of the cycle again, I plan to incorporate significant amounts of Story Listening into that. That’s part of the reason I am going to the workshop in Erlangen.

    The B year does an historical survey of Berlin, beginning in the present and working back in time. We talk about immigration and multi-culturalism, reunification, East/West Berlin and the Cold War, the partitioniong of Germany after WWII, terror under communism and Nazism, the inter-war years, WWI. This includes some biography, art, music, and other aspects of life that fit into the AP Themes. Then we make a jump back to the Middle Ages and spend about a semester studying the medieval period in Germany. This year I am trying out actual role playing (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) as a way of introducing elements of the Middle Ages. We will also do some other kinds of activities.

    Quite frankly, the vast majority of my work is oral/aural. Most of my students will not major in German in college, nor will they take the AP exam. They will not write persuasive essays. I am unwilling to sacrifice the interest and language acquisition of my students on the altar of test preparation. Consistent diachronic anecdotal evidence from a variety of sources indicates that this approach works to produce many students who can carry on a conversation in German and who have the necessary knowledge and proficiency to continue language acquisition on their own, as well as go to a German-speaking country and navigate the system plus translate for their family. I will take those results any day over a high score on a standardized test that means little to the student.

    1. I’m excited to hear/read more about how you are doing the Middle Ages roleplaying. I’m patiently waiting for your book, or even a taster… πŸ˜‰ I used to be a bit of a roleplaying (video games) geek, but never really got into D&D. I would love to find out more about your process. Maybe you could contribute a “Bite Size Book” or something along those lines? It sounds like you have some great ideas for your classes. I really want to incorporate more French culture in my 3rd and 4th year classes than I have recently.

  5. I agree with the above response by Robert, non natives can definitely pass. Ever since the change of the exam to this format in 2011 ( it was the first year for the exam for French in 2012), I know for a fact that the French exam pass rates went WAY up as they used to be dismal nationally and at my former school. Without exception, I’ve never had a native French speaker, and I’ve had loads of students pass the exam. Have all of my students passed? No, but I wouldn’t have expected them to, because sometimes testing stress can get the best of anyone, and to be honest I’ve had some former students who weren’t the best at writing, but enjoyed the class and the challenge and that was enough for me.

    At my current school (completely different school environment and population), there was a 100% pass rate for French last year, and I want to say 16-18 kids took the test? So non natives can definitely do it, even in Spanish. πŸ™‚

    BTW Robert, your former student teacher, Leah is here as our German teacher. πŸ™‚

    1. It wasn’t me, that’s the previous instructor who retired and I’m filling the shoes of…kind of intimidating to say the very least. The school I’m at is SUPER competitive and insane, and it’s a public HS. I have a colleague for the first time, and he’s only been here a year as well. To say that we have a lot to live up to is a bit of an understatement.

      I’m hoping for most of my students to pass, but we shall see. There are a couple that I’m not too sure about but they’re nice enough kids.

      1. Well Suzanne now I see why there was the 100% rate. They cull them out and get rid of those who can’t score that high before that level. The victory is not in the percentage but in how many kids you get up to those levels who only advance because they enjoy it so much and want to make it a life long pursuit. That is the real victory. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel the floorboards of data collection starting to collapse. Don’t know why.

        I wrote this post on the morelist in 2003:

        https://benslavic.com/blog/rotting-floorboards/

        1. No, there is no culling…our French three classes are full here and there are three of them (I want to say we have 80-90 students in French 3), it’s just by senior year a lot choose to take other AP classes as there are schedule conflicts, since there’s only 1 French 4 class, but that one is full (32). So the ones who really love it stay and do AP, some choose to do level 4, and there are also some who do IB.

          If some do it lifelong I’m happy, but to be honest, the school I’m at is has a high percentage (60 % or more) of Asian students whose parents force them to stick with stuff whether or not they like it for college. There’s not much love for the language in my AP kids because they’re forced to do it by their parents, not because we cull. Of the ones who are in AP, I’d say maybe 3-4 are there because they love it and want to be, and the others are there because their parents expect it of them.

        2. Also the former teacher was a great guy, huge into CI and TPRS. He was a real pioneer out here who built the program to what it is today. I honestly wish I’d had the chance to work with him.

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