THE LAST 3 WEEKS BEFORE THE AP EXAM

Photo by Waldemar Brandt

Yes, we are that close to the AP exams!  And if you happen to be reading this post after it`s original publication date, then you are even closer to the D day!

So, what to do the last three or two weeks before the exam?  I remember how during my early AP teaching years I used to cram a lot of different AP exam types of activities thinking that I was helping them to feel more confident if we did this right until the day before the exam.  Unfortunately I was too focused on doing my own thing without realizing that this was actually causing a lot of anxiety in my students.  

What do I do now?  What has worked for the last 10 years? How can we make sure our students get to the exam as relaxed and confident as possible?  We must think “out of the box”!

Three or two weeks before the exam I start what I call the “Refining unit”.  The idea during this time is to allow students to practice the different language skills in a relaxed and non threatening way.  You might be wondering what I mean with “non threatening way”.  With this expression I mean that whatever activity we do three or two weeks prior to the exam will have no grade, much less a grade that is supposed to give them an idea of what they would get in a particular section of the exam.  While mock exams before the real AP exams are very popular, they can have an opposite effect on students ‘ motivation and self confidence. Mock exams are better when they are not given so close to the exam day.  So what to do?

Refining Unit:

Before I share this strategy with you, allow me to tell you a story.  My best friend Jim Kerhle, an amazing Social Studies teacher in El Paso, TX is also a dedicated marathonist.  He recently came to Louisville to run a half marathon.  After picking him up at the airport I was expecting him to ask me to go home so he could rest before the big race the following day.  To my surprise he asked me to go to White Castle!  I was, ok… he is hungry.  But I was really surprised when he ordered 30 sliders and then asked me if I wanted something to eat!  I couldn’t understand how someone with a big race ahead of him in less than 12 hrs was going to stuff himself with a bunch of sliders.  

Jim explained that resting a lot, eating lots of carbohydrates and a couple of beers would do him much better than trying to run a half marathon the day before the real marathon.  Are we trying to have our students run a marathon before the marathon?  What sense does that make?

We all know that Spanish is a phonetic language. That’s a huge advantage over languages like English as we write exactly what we say (or the way it sounds).  So let’s use these last weeks to focus on different speaking activities, all based on the different AP themes.  Debates, conversations, presentations, bingo, running dictation, interviews, surveys, show and tell, etc.  Anything where they can speak and talk about any of the six AP themes will help them build confidence and review before the AP exam.

The refining unit is not only meant to be an activity to help with the Simulated Conversation, when you allow for different ways to allow speaking practice you are actually helping your students improve their argumentation and fluency in the written sections of the exam.

I know that some might not agree with my approach but I’m always more concerned about what works for my own students and that might also help my colleagues’ students.  This is the reason why I take the risk to share.  Good luck everyone in this year`s AP exams!  

As always I welcome questions and kind comments. You can reach me at diego@srojeda.com


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2 Comments

  1. I got so scared when I read 3 weeks! Then I double checked. My count shows 4 more weeks as of today. Phew! 😉
    We still have just a little breathing room. This is a good reminder as we plan for the last 3 weeks!!!

    I appreciate your approach, and take much of it to heart! However, in our case this year, our AP class did not meet from Dec 17 until March 18. This is only our 5th week together since December. It’s an unusual situation, but due to the circumstances, I plan to balance our remaining time between low stakes test practice (which my students are requesting) and more integrated and relaxed engagement with the themes and the language. 🙂

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