Thursday, May 15, 2014

AP Exam Debriefing

Last week was the German AP test.  All six of my students signed up and the next day when they were back in class I got the chance to "debrief" them.

I had the following chart up on the wall:

I broke down the AP exam into three sections: Multiple Choice, Speaking and Writing.  I gave them a difficulty scale that somewhat coincides with the AP scores (1 being very difficult and therefore harder for them to do well on and 5 being really easy).

The general consensus was that the exam was easier than they had expected and that they thought they did decently well.  We talked about each of the sections, looking at how difficult they found it and the topics that were covered.  I then asked them to rate the test (overall) - I told them this score should coincide with how the score they think they'll get on the test.  Here's how it broke down:

Why yes, I do organize my dry erase markers by ROYGBIV!
Multiple Choice
Topics that came up were Umwelt, Arbeit and something along the lines of the future (they weren't terribly clear on this part).  They overall didn't seem to think it was too hard, which was great news for me - since the test format changed a few years ago, I've been worried about the multiple choice section.

The school was nice enough to buy us some AP workbooks from College Board several years ago... and then the format changed two years later and the rigor of the workbooks no longer matched the rigor of the exam.  Even though they don't line up anymore, I still use these books with my students.  I assign them sections from the listening and reading sections throughout the year to do at home.  Even if the styles and difficulty aren't quite the same, I feel that it gives them more exposure outside of class that can help them build vocabulary.

For the previous two years, we have had no suitable practice workbooks for German AP.  Since College Board has yet to publish any (unlike for French...), most of the resources I had were from other German teachers who were nice enough to share what they had produced with their students via the College Board AP German Teacher Community.

Cornelsen recently started publishing an AP test prep workbook which we got at the beginning of this year.  I really like this workbook - it's actually designed around the current AP exam and has lots of practice exercises and even a full practice exam.  It gives strategies for students to use on each section of the test, the teacher's addition has lots of suggestions, the manuscripts for the listening exercises, and vocabulary lists for the exercises.  We've been using this workbook in class (in addition with the other one), and I think it's helped a lot.

Speaking: Cultural Comparison
The cultural comparison prompt was rated as easier than the multiple choice.  The topic was Arbeit.  The AP unit on work and professions probably helped with vocabulary, making it easier for them than the multiple choice.

Speaking: Conversation
This was apparently even easier than the Cultural Comparison.  The prompt was related to Technologie.  Based on my students last year, who did very poorly on the conversations we did in class at the beginning of the year, I decided this was something I needed to emphasize more this year.  I think the extra practice gave this year's students a better understanding of how the exercise works, the types of prompts they'll see, and appropriate ways to respond.

Writing: E-Mail
This was a mixed back - half said it was very easy while the other half said it was moderately easy.  The topic was Reisen.  My only worry is that they didn't appropriately begin and end the e-mail.  I also find that students tend to forget to ask for additional information.

Writing: Essay
Overall they related this easier than the e-mail.  The topic was Ausbildung.  With the help of the Cornelsen book, which provides a useful graphic organizer, I don't think they had any problems structuring their answer.  Their scores on this will most likely come down to their grammar.

Overall Scores
None of them thought they got below a 3, which is always a plus.  It'll be interesting to see how these scores compared to their actual scores.  I'm glad I took the picture just so I'll have it when I get the score report this summer.

Most of the feedback this year was positive about their experience - one student felt it went by faster than the other AP tests he took; several students felt they did better than they had thought (last week a student confessed he expected to get a 1 but today felt he had gotten a 3); they said the test was "just like what we've been doing in class" with our regular AP-style practices (every other week we spent our Wednesday practicing multiple choice questions or one of the free-response sections).  Their reaction was more positive than last year's group (not that theirs was negative, it just wasn't as confident) and much more positive than the group two years ago who were the first to take the new format (one student complained that the exam hadn't even been in German but in some "runic language he had never even seen before").  I'm glad that they can look forward to instead of dreading getting their scores.

Did you "debrief" your AP students?  I feel it's an important part of the AP experience - if they feel they did poorly, they get a chance to vent; if they feel they did well, they get a chance to be proud of themselves.  It's also important for me as the teacher - they can tell me topics that were covered and areas they think they did well so I know what's working and what to emphasis in the future.

Fingers crossed that they did well!

- Frau Leonard

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