Atlanta Public Schools students are required to either take a final exam or to complete an assignment in place of the exam. Because of this, many students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes this year are now having to prepare for both their AP exams and their final exams. Although some teachers at Midtown are dropping their final exam requirements for students taking the AP exam, many teachers are having students take both. This practice is pointless and harmful to students and teachers as it increases stress. Because of this, Midtown students who are signed up to take the AP exam in a specific class should not be required to take the final exam.
In the majority of classes, final exams are cumulative and test the entire material in a specific course. As such, there’s no reason for students to take a final exam when they are already being tested on that same material by the AP exam. The AP exam is also more effective at testing students. According to the College Board, the questions for AP exams are written by content experts and undergo several rounds of review. These questions are much more likely to gauge students’ content understanding accurately than questions on final exams, which are written by teachers or recycled from other sources.
In addition to being less effective, final exams on top of AP exams test the same content without meaningfully increasing a student’s mastery of the course curriculum. While they can use AP exams to get college credit, students gain nothing besides a grade from also taking a final exam. This year, seniors’ final exams also take place during the second week of AP exams. This means that some seniors may have to miss their final exams in a specific AP class in order to take the AP test, and subsequently have to make up the final exam after the seniors’ last day of school.
In requiring final exams, APS is creating a redundancy that may prevent some seniors from graduating or receiving their final grades. Teachers would also benefit from removing finals for students taking AP exams. As AP exams are more effective for students than finals, the extra work to give a final is unnecessary for teachers as well. The College Board is already producing a comprehensive final and giving teachers useful data about the test. Instead of writing and grading finals, teachers could instead focus more on the AP exams and getting through all of the course material in time.
Some teachers use their final exams as practice for the AP exams since they believe students will prepare for AP exams while studying for their finals. While this is true, students would benefit more if that time was used for AP test preparation. For example, they could give students practice AP exams or review materials instead of a final exam, reducing the end-of-year workloads for students. It would also give students more time to study for their AP exams and improve their chances of scoring higher, gaining college credit and bettering the school’s reputation.
Students and teachers have already been struggling with stress enough this year. Holding finals for students taking AP exams is not only unhelpful and redundant, but it also places an unnecessary burden on students and teachers. If Midtown drops the final requirement for this specific group of students, it would benefit both students and teachers in the extremely busy end-of-year period. Furthermore, dropping the final exam requirement for students taking AP exams may encourage more students to take AP exams, potentially benefiting the school’s reputation if those students score well.