Stay on the AP Road

apMay is fast approaching, and this means one thing for over-achieving Grotonians: AP Week. Dread mixed with a sprinkle of anxiety and a dash of nervous anticipation slowly fills our veins until the exams are the only thing we can think about. This is it. All those Red Bulls, flashcards, and tears were for this fortnight and this fortnight only. And despite this path that many of us have chosen, a little question worms its way into our mind and sits there, refusing to budge – Was it worth it?

We are smart. Maybe it’s in the water, or maybe it’s the New England air, or maybe it’s how much Groton values academics, but Grotonians are fairly intelligent. And not only are we intelligent, we are also constantly pushing ourselves to new limits. That’s why so many of us choose to go down the challenging and debatably rewarding path known as the “AP Road”. We deal with hours of homework a night, learning new material at an inhuman speed, while  juggling sports, a social life, and sleep (which most of us are severely short on). In the long run, is all–or even any–of this grueling ordeal worth it? Will we be better able to live the lives we want and achieve the careers we pursue because of this torture we put ourselves through?

Indeed, there are many benefits to going down this road. Achieving an admirable score on the exam is a definite plus on college applications, and on some, it’s even a necessity. The general consensus is that a good score (a 3, 4, or 5) means that the student in question is “qualified for that subject.” According to the College Board, the company in charge of making the AP’s, ” ‘qualified’ means that you have proven yourself capable of doing the work on an introductory-level course in a particular subject at college.” Some colleges even allow students to opt out of certain beginners’ courses if they have done particularly well. Essentially, if you do well, the college gives credit.

That’s where the problem begins. Why should the College Board have the ability to tell whether a student is smart or not? An inner-city kid with little to no available resources (books, teachers, etc.) may not be able to perform as well on an AP exam as a student who does have access to private tutors, special classes, etc., even if both have the same amount of drive and passion. So are AP exams really telling colleges which students are the smartest, or are they telling them which have more money than the others?

Not only is AP material difficult to learn, but every one of us is simply different. We learn differently, think differently, and solve problems differently. That doesn’t necessarily mean some of us don’t know the material better than others. It just means that each of us takes the test differently, and unfortunately, that sometimes hurts us. The College Board designs these exams to objectively measure how much each of us knows, but quite frankly, that’s impossible. For a college to completely and 100 percent without a doubt understand how much a student understands a subject, he or she needs to take a test that is tailored to how that student thinks, which is impossible to do on a national scale.

So is the AP road worth it? Despite those compunctions, I must say yes. The AP Exams are definitely not the best indicator of how well you know a subject, but right now, it’s the best available metric. Groton prepares you pretty well for these tests, so if you’re interested in a subject, go for it, and maybe the challenging path you choose will lead you just where you want to be.

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