swim, chem, baseball, I talk with my hands
How It Went Down
The final exam in AP Chemistry was administered over a two-day period this week. The thinking is to simulate the actual AP Chemistry exam, which takes place on Monday, May 6th. The way this was accomplished was to give the two halves of the exam separately, with the free-response section delivered on Tuesday and the multiple-choice section delivered on Wednesday. Each class is normally one hour so both classes on both days encroached on adjacent time periods. Period E used the “Advisory” block after the normal class and Period F used “Office Hours” immediately beforehand. A similar arrangement was implemented on Wednesday for each class. Indeed, the logistical elements to make this happen were big and every year requires a new and unique solution
I have certainly struggled to find the proper balance between pushing the students and flexing to allow for the students to find their own balance in life. That stated, they unanimously wanted the final exam before the actual AP exam and almost all of them wanted it to be administered in class. This was the best way to make this happen. As I have written before on this blog, I offer the students ” the deal,” in which getting a “4” or “5” on the final entitles the student to an automatic “A” in the course, regardless of the semester’s performance. As a result, the final offers unusually high stakes and keeps those students motivated by grades reaching through the end of the semester. So, if I am offering “the deal” then the test must be real and administered in a real fashion, which is an interesting task. The test must also be cleanly evaluated using AP standards and not using “high school” ways of looking at work. Letting go of the latter took me years to do and learning the former took me even longer.
Day 0: Study Session
I violated my own rule by offering a study session which systematically marched through the year’s content. By this point in the course I have so little impact on how each student performs, in terms of content, but my intent was to enter into conversation about strategy and confidence about the exam. While this wasn’t a “Rah! Rah!” session by any means, my goal was to assure those that attended (20 of the 22) that they have learned everything they need to know to do well. There is a great amount of freaking out that occurs and I have seen students implode under the pressure. Thoughtfully covering the material, along with a summarizing topic sheet, might help them along. With some pizza, drinks, jokes and hard work the session went quite well.
Day 1: Free Response
I decided to give the F/R questions first, as they are considered to be the most demanding of the two sections. There is no way to fake the answers and this section often leaves students a bit down. It also gives me a chance to grade this part before offering the M/C section. It’s tough to tell how students are doing during a test, unless there is a complete disaster happening, so my thoughts were that they hung in there and did well. After grading this section I knew that they had done very well.
Day 2: Multiple Choice
Many students asked for their F/R grades before taking the second part of the exam and this made most of them ecstatic. The challenge is to help them maintain an even temper while they finish the final 90 minutes of testing. The tests were graded immediately after school.
And now the suspense of the grades is upon me in a huge way…