College Board to Restructure AP Program, Less Focus on Memorization

Every year, as the Advanced Placement examinations approach, many students bury themselves in their books, attempting to recall a year’s worth of information. However, starting next year, AP students may not have to retain as much information and instead need to employ more critical thinking skills.

College Board plans to restructure AP exams to focus more on conceptual thinking as opposed to memorization. The first group of revised exams will roll out in 2012, with the French, German, and World History tests. College Board will place particular emphasis on revamping the AP Biology and AP U.S. History exams, both of which will be administered in 2013.

In 2013, College Board will administer redesigned exams for AP Biology and AP U.S. History. The new tests will downplay memorization and promote analytical thinking. Photo by Eric Wong.

In order to prepare teachers for this change, College Board plans to distribute a new curriculum that will emphasize concepts and help eliminate the need for teaching to the test, or structuring the class around the AP test. However, AP Biology teacher Pam Chow currently does not construct her class around the AP exam currently.

“I don’t think we’re going to drastically alter [the course],” Chow said. “My focus has never been to teach to the test.”

Contrary to what the College Board may think, AP U.S. History teacher Margaret Platt believes that teaching to the test is necessary.

“If someone accuses me of teaching to the test, I wear that with a red badge. That’s a compliment,” Platt said. “The purpose of the course is to prepare kids to take the AP exam. Therefore, it makes logical sense that we would teach them in a way that would prepare them for that exam.”

Platt does recognize that the AP U.S. History course covers an extensive amount of information.

“We’ve got to know a huge breadth [and depth] of information, and there’s just not enough time,” Platt said.

Junior Dennis Ku, however, does not recognize the need to lessen memorization in AP Biology.

“There’s just not much to memorize,” Ku said.

Both Chow and Platt could not comment on the specifics of the AP changes, as the curricula are yet to be released. It remains to be seen, then, how their classes will be affected by College Board’s planned changes.

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