Everything You Need to Know About the AP Exam


Jesenia Garcia

SEMHS students hard at work

Jesenia Garcia, Editor-In-Chief

As the AP exams are fast approaching, the tension begins to rise in students. These exam scores could potentially determine the next chapter of their lives. According to Mrs. Lopez, the assistant principal of instruction, the exams will be held here at South El Monte High School. The first week of exams will start on May 2nd; the second week of exams will begin on May 13th. Students will arrive on campus to take their exams. Once campus was open for in-person instruction on August 17th, 2021, AP teachers have been preparing their students for their exam in one way or another. Due to over a year of distance learning, both teachers and students had trouble adjusting back to in-person learning. Distance learning brought out the best in some, but the worst in others. Ms. Van Empel, an AP English Literature teacher, shared her thoughts on the topic. “The classes are always unique because the students are new every year. All we can do is our personal best.” 


Students enrolled in AP classes are instructed by their teacher to create a College Board account. This website allows teachers to post assignments for their students to complete in order to help them prepare. The AP College Board also has plenty of resources available to both students and teachers. “My psychology teacher provides practice tests straight from the College Board and my English teacher prepares us through a lot of practice essays,” Karen Donato, a junior, shares. The most significant feature of this website is that students could register for their exams as well as show students their designated day and time for their exams. The AP College Board also gives teachers access to their scoring rubrics. Some AP teachers such as Mr. Magana and Ms. Van Empel, have gone over the rubric with their English classes so students can know what the College Board is expecting. This information allows them to compare their writing to the rubric while making adjustments so their work could meet the criteria. “We’ve been using the official AP rubric all year. All of their essays are graded using the same criteria they’ll face in May.” Ms. Van Empel adds. 


During the pandemic students were still able to take the AP exams, except the exams were modified since they were being taken online. In 2021, students were given the option to take their exams either online or in-person. However, some exams such as Statistics, Spanish Language and Culture AP, Spanish Literature and Culture AP, Chemistry, and Calculus were in paper-pencil format and students had to take them here on campus. Ms. Van Empel shared her insight, “In 2021, the traditional test was given, but students were very nervous about being back on campus while the pandemic was still a looming threat.” Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused many setbacks, it has affected both students and staff in several ways. However, Mr. Magana, an English and Avid teacher gives his perspective, “I don’t believe in excuses. Those who put in the work have the potential to do well.” Teachers like Ms. Aparicio, for example, an AP U.S. History teacher, do their best to keep a low-stress environment due to the issues students may be facing inside and outside the classroom. Despite the additional stress they’re currently facing, she believes her students will do their best. “There are many pros and cons with returning to in-person learning after a year of Distance Learning. I just encourage students to take the time to study, ask questions, and participate in class as much as possible to have the best outcome,” Ms. Aparicio recently stated. 


AP exam scores may qualify students for college credit. “Scores determine proficiency with college-level material,” Mr. Magana added. Although a good performance on the exams are beneficial, it doesn’t necessarily affect chances of admission when applying to colleges. Students who aren’t exactly the best test takers don’t have to stress themselves out when taking their exams because according to Ms. Van Empel, “even if they don’t get that credit, either because they don’t get a 3 or better, the college they’ve chosen doesn’t offer that credit, they will leave their class better prepared to succeed moving forward because they have chosen to challenge themselves.” The teachers and staff are confident in their students and will continue to support them even after high school.