The AP Exam: English Language and Composition

So, after being sick last Thursday and Friday, and all weekend long… I returned to school today and had the chore of my AP English midterm. It consisted of two essays in an 84 minute period: an argumentative and a rhetorical analysis.

The thing with an AP class, especially with this one, is that there’s not a lot of STUFF to learn. You’re really just learning three separate skills. A rhetorical analysis essay prompt asks you to read a passage of writing and dissect it and look at what the author has DONE and why they did it, rather than the message of their words. This is most often (and most easily) done with a speech, but sometimes there’s other weird fictional pieces or memoirs in there. Odd stuff, really. An argumentative essay is really easy if you have any opinions at all: you’re given a controversial issue, and you must determine whether it is X or Y and justify your case with evidence. If you want any kind of a strong essay, you counter yourself and then explain why you’re still right. “Some people might THINK it’s X, but it’s really Y because …” et cetera. And finally, the synthesis essay is basically an argumentative essay on steroids with pre-given sources. You have seven or eight-ish sources, one or more of which is an image of one kind or another (usually useless graphs, in my opinion, that don’t contribute to the actual prompt’s purpose), and you utilize them to form an opinion about the issue.

That’s about it. This class teaches you those skills, and not really a whole lot else. Some vocabulary for rhetorical analyses, but if you’re good at dissection, you don’t really need to know what each tool is called if you can use it properly. (It helps, though. Like if you have an assistant to hand you your tools and would rather have your eyes on whatever you’re dissecting …. but this metaphor’s going too far.) The thing this creates is that this class, much more so than the AP Psychology* class I’m taking, is really a class for the exam. Some people debate the credibility of AP classes because it’s literally “teaching to the test” but the problem with this is that these are college courses that not everyone’s actually going to try in.

What I’m getting at is that AP English is a year-long course and if you keep on doing your work and actually exerting effort … there’s no way not to get upper-half grades on your essays. The problem that everyone faces is time. Time, time, time. There’s never enough time, really. And after I finished my midterm this morning, I sat around and watched as people were scurrying with messy handwriting (and thought about all the sample essays we’d read which I couldn’t read because of the dreadful handwriting) and I wondered why we couldn’t type them. The school can easily revoke Internet access to computers on its network. We are a techie generation, after all, and the future’s computers, regardless of what you’re going into. And the thing is, I don’t know how old y’all are (does anyone even really read this blog? If so, you must be irritated by my parenthetical overuse) or how much bearing that has, or how much or how often you write – but I revise in my head. I don’t plan when I write. I just write. That’s the only writing I can do and the only writing I’ve ever been able to do … and go ask my English teachers, they all think I roll out some pretty great stuff. So, right – the point is, everyone in this class probably has the skills that they need. But they can’t finish their essays because they’re stressed for time and their hands cramp up from handwriting and then they freak out because they don’t have enough time and whatever they’re able to scribble out before time’s up is illegible and THEN where are they?

Boy, I can get on a tangent, eh?

Mostly the reason I’m writing this is because I couldn’t find any good posts about it elsewhere. I think it’s an honest thought worth considering. Wouldn’t be too hard to pull off, I don’t think – a lot of classes take their exams in libraries anyway, where the computers are, at my school at least. Imagine those graders down in Kansas or wherever they are (does it change?) – how much easier would their lives be if they could just read a nice typed paper instead of deciphering the hundreds or maybe even thousand or so different handwritings they have to read?

Do discuss, I’m deeply interested in this possibility.

[[** So, our AP Psychology class. Psychology is a great class to take in high school as an elective because it’s interesting and you can and probably will (directly or indirectly) use it out of class. AP Psych is for those students who think they might wanna go beyond school and become a psychologist … or for those who’re really interested in it. The thing is that the class isn’t really hard. At all. The exam is a joke. We took our midterm back in December because Schleer’s a great teacher who wanted us to relax during our midterms week (as much as possible) and it’s so easy. He makes his tests much like the multiple choice on the midterm/exam, so nothing was really a surprise. And the essay questions…? Not hard at all. So the thing is that you can really use the class outside of class and if you’re any smart, well, that’s what you do.
Also, he acts like the class is so hard, but it’s not. He’s just addressing that so many people are lazy fucks who don’t do any school work. In AP Psych, you do indeed have to do the homework. But if you do, it really pays off.]]

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