CollegeBoard Announces Reduction of AP Test Coverage

Prep books and flashcards will crowd desks once again as students finish registering for Advanced Placement (AP) exams this week, but soon students will need to prepare for restructured AP Biology and History syllabi and an adjusted scoring system.

The College Board announced plans to reduce the material covered in AP Biology and History for the 2012-2013 year.

According to the College Board website, the AP program helps students prepare for collegiate level courses. Credits from AP exams may allow students to move into upper-level courses within their field of interest, study for a double major or participate in study abroad programs once they are in college.

In the spring of 2010, the AP Biology and US History exams were among the most popular AP exams for Phillips Academy students to take. Seventy-five students took the AP Biology exam and ninety students took the AP US History exam.

The changes to the AP curriculum will cut down the amount of material required for both syllabi and provide teachers a curriculum framework, a course outline that focuses on teaching the topics thematically.

“[The College Board] has addressed the fact-laden, overblown syllabi and changed them to ensure certain quality levels for the AP courses,” said John Rogers, Dean of Studies and Instructor in Chemistry.

The structure of advanced courses in Biology and History departments at Andover already reflect the new direction of the College Board, focusing on delving deeper into specific concepts.

In Biology, the new AP syllabus will emphasize specific topics and hands-on lab experiments, unlike the current lecture-based material. The topics have also been divided into four main areas of study, eliminating about a third of material.

“[The College Board] is coming more towards Andover’s way of teaching the AP classes, emphasizing concept over coverage,” said Jeremiah Hagler, Head of the Biology Department.

Phillips Academy students taking the AP Biology exam usually take the Biology 560, 570 and 580, a yearlong sequence in cellular biology, human anatomy, evolution and ecology.

For US History, the College Board aims to institute a new syllabus that covers nine time periods and seven over arching themes. Test-takers will now focus on crafting historical arguments, giving teachers flexibility to decide what specific events to instruct and analyze.

The required US History sequence for Phillips Academy students, History 300 and 310, are considered at AP level though the curriculum covers a breadth of material.

“[Phillips Academy’s] advanced courses are rigorous themselves, and [the department] felt the AP syllabus was unduly constraining and would not promote that rigor,” said Peter Drench, Head of the History Department.

“In general, Andover teachers don’t discourage or encourage taking the AP US History courses, but leave the choice up to the student and what the student wishes to focus on.”

The Biology and US History classes that prepare students for their respective AP exams are not bound by AP syllabi but are designated “advanced” in the Course of Study.

Andover currently offers 28 AP level classes, with nearly one AP level course in every department.

Teachers also help students planning on taking AP exams study material not covered in class.

The AP exams are scored on five-point system, with around the top 20 percent of all test takers receiving a five.

Eighty-six percent of the AP exams taken at Phillips Academy received a score of a four or five.

This May the AP exams will be scored with a different system. Total scores for the multiple-choice sections will be based on the number of questions answered correctly, and points will not be deducted for wrong answers or unanswered questions.