October 4, 2007
In high school, students were limited to more or less five core subjects. Yes, additional extras were offered, but the list wasn’t very extensive. Once students enter college, it becomes obvious that there is much more to choose from. And additional career options translate into additional entrance tests. Don’t be stumped when your friends rattle off their stressful exam plans. Below are top testing acronyms—no need to be confused.
ACT- The American College Test (ACT), like the SAT, is a college entrance test. It is usually taken during a student’s junior or early senior year of high school. Most colleges take ACT or SAT scores into consideration when making admissions’ decisions.
AP- The Advanced Placement (AP) test is taken by high school students who wish to receive college credit for their high school work. Test takers have usually taken advanced placement classes in high school. Students who score sufficiently well in one or more of the subject options (there are over thirty), may be able to bypass certain college class requirements.
DAT- The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is for students who wish to enter the field of dentistry. In addition to general academic skill, the test measures knowledge of scientific information and perceptual ability. Because it is more than four hours long (not counting breaks), you can say that it measures stamina as well.
GMAT- The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is used to assess a student’s readiness for business school. Plenty of students attempt the test during their senior year of college, but there are many others who wait a few years. Many business schools look for applicants with sufficient work experience, and that may require a few years of full-time work.
GRE- The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is less major specific. Students with a wide range of interests and plans take the GRE before entering graduate school. The test is composed of three sections, the Quantitative Reasoning, the Verbal Reasoning, and the Analytical Writing.
LSAT- The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a test taken by students who wish to attend law school. It may be retaken, but unlike the GRE, it is only offered a few times per year. The test measures a taker’s reasoning skills more than it does their acquired knowledge.
MCAT- The Medical College Admissions Tests (MCAT) tests a student’s preparation for medical school. It tests both thought process and acquired scientific knowledge. Like the DAT, the MCAT is very time consuming.
NCLEX-RN- The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is taken by students pursing a career in nursing. It is used to determine if students are ready to become registered nurses (RN) and composed of four major categories and eight subcategories.
PSAT- The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a preparatory version of the SAT. Students who take the test, in addition to working out their brain, may get the chance to compete for national merit scholarships based on scores.
SAT- The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam for high school students. Most students choose to take this test during their junior or senior year. The majority of colleges require that students submit either an SAT or an ACT score as a part of their application package. Depending on the college, one, the other, or neither may be required.
June 10, 2008
Who wants to waste their senior year analyzing the deeper message behind The Scarlet Letter, differentiating between cations and anions (cations are “paw”sitive), or charting calculus equations? Obviously, few of us want to make high school more difficult than it already is. That being said, the advantages of enrolling oneself—when possible—in challenging Advanced Placement (AP) courses can extend beyond the twelfth grade. Below are just a few reasons why you should consider college-level classes.
Sooner of later, you will have to take them. Unpleasant core subject requirements won’t go away when you get to college. Sure, more classes will be relevant to your major, but some headaches will still exist. Instead of taking the standard versions now and the advanced versions later, knock out two birds with one stone.
Save money. On average, college prices are rising at rates that outpace inflation. If you want to save money, don’t stay in school longer than you have to. Within reason, challenge yourself by completing extra credits, and finish school on time.
Make your college years a bit easier. Many students are taken aback by the increased expectations of college instructors. According to the St. Petersburg Times, about a quarter of first-year college students do not return the following year. By taking AP classes, students can become acquainted with the increasingly difficult college curriculum and nip workload problems before they arise.
Impress College Admissions Officials. Most of us are aware of the advantages, both social and financial, of college graduates. But before you reach for that diploma, you must first be accepted. Advanced Placement classes will show admissions officials that you are taking initiative and working hard. In other words, you are the kind of candidates who deserves the chance (and possibly the scholarship) needed to attend their school.
February 6, 2009
Advanced Placement, or AP, classes are becoming more popular and more students are passing the exams, according to annual data released by the exam's publisher this week. Approximately 15.2 percent of the class of 2008 received a passing score on the AP exam, as compared to 14.4 percent of the class of 2007.
AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit. Each AP course ends with an exam, scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 considered to be "passing" and credit-worthy by most colleges. A few high schools also offer the option to take an AP course as dual-enrollment, where students pay to earn college credit for their work completed, rather than their test score. Students can potentially shave a semester or more off their college experience through AP coursework, or AP work can free students' time in college up for more exploration of a variety of courses. Either way, many students see AP courses as a way to work towards their college goals.
Despite the benefits of AP, there are some arguments against it, as with any standardized test. For students, AP exams cost money, often have relatively low pass rates, don't guarantee college credit, aren't offered in every subject at every school, and are likely to conflict with at least one event your senior year of high school. For teachers and college administrators, there's a concern about depth of coverage, quality of instruction, and students missing out on a key part of the college experience by coming in with so many AP credits.
Advocates of AP coursework say it can help students start college planning, get excited about the subject area, and save money by shaving off a few general educational requirements. As AP grows in popularity, high schools are continuing to add courses and improve their teaching of the subject. As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are definitely worth considering. AP credit can be a way to build your resume, explore a potential college major, and jumpstart your career.
December 8, 2009
Two articles in The Dallas Morning News this week take a look at trends happening across the state regarding Advanced Placement course offerings. One article looked at data evaluating Texas high school students that showed more than half fail the AP exams, where passing marks of a 3 on a 1-5 scale are typically required to receive college credit for the courses. Another article looked at inequities in AP choices across the region. Some schools offered students more than 30 courses to choose from; others offered a less than impressive slate.
AP courses have been growing in popularity over the last few years, as guidance counselors urge excelling students to take more of the courses to get more college credit, and, in most cases, save on the college costs of many general education requirements if they end up passing those final exams. AP classes often mean a more impressive academic transcript, and at a time when college admissions are more competitive, any boost on that transcript might be worth the effort.
But as the data from Texas suggests, questions remain about the shortcomings of the program. Supporters of the courses say that with the growing number of students taking AP classes, it is only natural for there to be a larger number of students failing their comprehensive AP exams. However, even the administrators of the AP program agree that more should be done to address the low number of college-level offerings at lower-income high schools. According to The Dallas Morning News, schools in low-income districts don't have the funds to not only cover the costs of an extensive AP program, but attract educators to teach those courses. Many of those schools have decided to offer college-level through other means, such as partnerships with local community colleges.
AP classes aren't for everyone. While your GPA may see a boost if you get a high grade in the course, if you don't do well, you could hurt your academic record more than help it. Still, there are a number of advantages. We've already mentioned the cost benefits. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you'll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. A taste of college-level courses could also better prepare you for your first year on campus. So if you're willing to challenge yourself and put the work in that will be required for you to ace those final AP exams, consider your school's offerings. If those offerings are slim, look outside your high school. AP isn't the only way to earn college credit and prepare yourself for college.
December 15, 2009
A growing number of high school students are considering their options outside of Advanced Placement courses when it comes to pursuing early college credit. More are now looking into dual enrollment courses at community colleges to pad their academic resumes and get a taste of college life before they graduate high school. Some high schools have even begun offering fewer AP offerings in favor of partnering with community college programs.
An article in The State Journal-Register today explores the options available to students across Illinois. Nearly 1,900 high school students are currently taking courses online and on campus at Lincoln Land Community College, according to the article, and many are foregoing the typical high school experience of proms and pep rallies in favor of a preview of the college experience. Most of the courses are general education requirements students would take their freshman year. One student quoted in the article said she enrolled in college classes while in high school so that she will be able to work as a certified nursing assistant while going to college after her high school graduation.
We see value in both options. Dual enrollment at a community college may help prepare high school students for the college experience, giving them the confidence they need to excel that first year. There also won't be an AP exam to take at the end of your course, putting less pressure on students who may not be the best test-takers. (Most colleges require that you get a score of 3 or better on an AP exam to receive credit for the course.) Your academic transcript will also be more impressive when you're ready to apply to college, and you could be looking at a shorter, and subsequently less expensive, college experience. (This last point could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.)
But AP courses aren't bad either. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you’ll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. While you won't be taking classes on a campus, the rigors of AP courses could still help you prepare for college and the study habits you'll need to succeed after high school. If your school offers both dual enrollment and AP classes, consider all of your options to find the program that will work best for you, and you may be drawn toward one over the other.
February 4, 2010
The number of high school students signing up for Advanced Placement (AP) courses has grown significantly over the last year, but the number of students failing the exams to receive credit for the classes grew right alongside those figures, according to a USA Today analysis released today. The number of students failing the exams was particularly high in Southern states like Arkansas and Mississippi.
AP courses, typically offered to high school juniors and seniors, allow students to take college-level classes in high school and potentially earn college credit. Most colleges require students to receive a 3 or higher to receive credit for the courses, based on a 1-5 scale. Nearly 3 million students took the tests last year; more than two in five, or about 41 percent, earned a failing mark of a 1 or 2. In the South, about half of all students failed the exams, a failure rate up 7 percentage points over the last 10 years. The worst performer was Arkansas; more than 70 percent of AP test-takers there failed their final exams. Ten years ago, about 36.5 percent of AP test-takers nationwide failed their exams.
The CollegeBoard, which offers the exams, has already responded. Officials there say it's misleading to consider all AP exams equal. Some courses, such as AP Physics, have seen higher numbers of students passing. The number of students taking AP English Literature, however, have not been as successful. Statistically, it shouldn't be all that surprising that there are more students failing the tests, as the number of students taking the tests has grown significantly. Enrollment in AP courses has grown from about 704,000 students in 1999 to 1.7 million last year.
Should you be worried? If you're eager to get your college career started or get some college prep under your belt, and feel confident enough in your abilities and academic record to tackle the extra work, these numbers shouldn't dissuade you from adding an AP course or two to your course schedule. As long as you weigh the benefits and drawbacks, AP courses are worth considering. AP credit can be a way to build your resume and explore a potential college major, and save money on your college education if you do well enough on those exams to get some college credit.
July 22, 2010
As more high schools across the country begin offering students alternatives to Advanced Placement like dual enrollment partnerships with local community colleges, the College Board, which offers the exams, has been forced to take a look at the AP program in order to make it more relevant to the college-bound.
One of the things the AP provider hopes to do is make sure the high school courses do a better job of preparing students for college-level work. As competition for enrollment increases, especially at the most selective colleges and universities, more schools are becoming stricter about awarding credit for students’ efforts on AP exams. For students interested in those schools, there remains little incentive to sign up for an AP course over a college course elsewhere, as one of the main draws of AP is the fact that you’ll start your freshman year of college with some credits under your belt. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the test provider will work to improve communication between the program and colleges, to both make sure students’ credits are being accepted and to make the courses look more like college-level classes.
Another criticism of even those educators who take on AP courses has been that teachers focus less on looking at topics in an in-depth way, and more on covering the maximum content possible so that students are ready for the AP exams at the end of the class. With more students failing AP exams, particularly in the Southern states, teachers and students are under even more pressure. Such statistics make signing up for dual enrollment, where there may not be a similar comprehensive exam at the end, more desirable, especially for those students who may not be good test-takers. The College Board also plans to make the AP program more flexible by adding computer-based testing dates and making sure students receive their scores earlier.
So what are the benefits? For those who may not have the option of dual enrollment or who may feel more comfortable in a high school classroom, AP is a good option to get some exposure to college-level work. With more than 30 AP courses to choose from, high school students may also be able to take those classes that they’re more interested in, improving their chances of doing well on the final exam. (This must mean your high school has a wide variety of AP offerings, of course.) Finally, if you are confident in your abilities to do well on an AP exams and you do well in a course that will give you the opportunity to transfer college credits to a two- or four-year school, you’ll be getting college-level instruction at a deep discount.
January 25, 2011
This year's Academy Award nominees were announced this morning, representing the crème de la crème of the film industry. There are several parallels to this honor in the world of academia like getting accepted to a top college, making the Dean’s List or earning a prestigious scholarship but one long-held distinction – completing an Advanced Placement course – is becoming anything but elite.
According to an article in the Republican Herald, AP classes have become commonplace for most high school students in college prep programs across the nation. Jennifer Topiel, the College Board’s executive director of communications, revealed that more than 50,000 high school students in Pennsylvania alone were enrolled in at least one AP class last year. The number of Pennsylvania AP students participating in the optional subject tests at the end of the courses, however, have not been quite as high as the trend seen throughout the rest of the country, where there has been about a 50-percent increase in AP test completion in the past five years. The program has become so popular that it’s being revamped for the 2012-2013 school year to "clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking."
It may not make sense to do all the homework, study for all the quizzes, earn exemplary marks and not reap the potential reward of college credit the subject tests can provide but some students purposely opt out of the exams, like North Schuylkill Superintendent Andrew Smarkanic’s daughter, Lauren, who took AP Biology in high school. "They don't take the test because they don't want to miss making the connection with professors in their program they may have in that first year or missing some subject matter because each school has its own unique curriculum," Smarkanic said. "You can miss the building blocks in that first year and struggle later in your program."
If you took an Advanced Placement course, would you forego the chance to jumpstart your college career or would you take the test, get the credits and have more room in your freshman year schedule for electives and nontraditional classes?
April 14, 2011
It’s April and a few things are on the rise: temperatures (yay!), gas prices (boooo!) and high school students’ GPAs and success in difficult courses (yay again!).
The National Assessment of Educational Progress released its findings of typical high school students’ grade point averages from 1990 to 2009. During that time, the average grade point average increased from 2.68 to 3.0 and the average number of credits also saw an uptick from 26.8 in 2005 to 27.2 credits in 2009. The reason? Researchers cite the importance of rigorous curriculum – highlighting upper-level math and science courses – as a key to greater achievement in high school.
Also included in the study is that 59 percent of students are graduating with accelerated classes on their transcripts and amped-up credits in the core courses of English, mathematics, science and social studies as well as electives like foreign languages, fine arts and computer-related classes. The students with earlier exposure to advanced curricula – specifically those who took algebra I in middle school and began high school with geometry – scored 31 points higher on the study’s math assessment; that being said, male students generally scored higher average mathematics and science than their female counterparts but females had higher overall grade point averages – 3.10 versus 2.90.
With the increasingly competitive college application process and President Obama’s call for an emphasis on education to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, these numbers are promising. High school students, are you taking more difficult courses to give colleges another reason to consider offering you admission? College students, did this method help you get into the college of your choice? Does anyone disagree completely based on personal experience?
June 2, 2011
Here is a bit of advice for all you graduating high school seniors: Save your test scores!
All that time and money you spent on the SATs, ACTs and APs and all those other acronymonous tests are not for naught! Besides being a tool for college admittance, these tests will actually benefit you later on in your college career. I know...crazy, right? All that time spent studying vocabulary, major historical dates and algebraic equations was actually worth it in the long run!
I know from personal experience: My SAT I scores on the writing and reading comprehension sections (good but not great scores, mind you) exempted me from a general requirement writing class. While your SAT scores are generally used for assessing your placement within a university, these scores can sometimes aid your college in placing you in the proper introductory classes or can waive your gen eds entirely (though every school is different so check with the registrar).
For those of you who took AP classes and did well on the final AP tests, scores of three or higher usually exempt you from certain college courses. I have a friend who didn’t have to take any history, science or foreign language gen eds because her AP scores were accepted in lieu of taking these classes. Pretty cool!
So, like I said before, save those scores! And for those you who are still undergoing this standardized testing process, do your best on them – they could save you from the headache of having to take a 100-level English class later on.
Jacquelene Bennett is a rising senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.
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