Monday, May 30, 2011

How Tragic.

The school year can end only so quickly.
Even though most of us have already experienced a sense of relief - mimicking the relaxation that accompanies the final day of state-mandated school attendance - after the realization that AP testing has drawn to a close, we still have to steel ourselves for the trials that lie ahead. The hard stuff may be behind us, but we still have to suit up for the worst to come, like my second round of SAT testing this upcoming Saturday, and Finals, on the 13th and 14th of June. The approaching close of a year also signals a farewell to the graduating class, and I'm sad to see some of my favorite seniors say goodbye. Before we can reach the sunny shine of summertime, it seems we have to experience the tragedy of the end of the school year.
(Not to mention the tragedy that an A- I recieved last semester and the fact that our school district refuses to weight students' GPAs is preventing me from becoming one of our school's prestigious Grey Gowns next year. That means I have to watch as kids who swam by all of their high school career in regular and honors classes are honored, and some of us who busted our butts in AP are left out of the fun. Boo.)
However, those AP classes where our work has finally paid off now get the chance to experience a little less high-tension classwork. Sure, we still get assignments, but they mainly take the form of in-class presentations for AP US History, and art projects for AP English's reading of Macbeth.
Macbeth, by itself, was definitely not one of my favorite peices of Shakespeare's work. In fact, I found it pretty boring. As a district, our school system decided that teachers have to assign one of Shakespeare's tragedies every year, which has led to our perusal of Romeo and Juliet freshman year, and Julius Caesar last year. (Next year, as seniors, we will have to read Hamlet.) I really liked both of those, to the point where I even read A Midsummer Night's Dream over the summer between 9th and 10th grade. However, I'm not sure whether I've just become tired of his writing, or tired of people complaining about not being able to understand his writing, because this wasn't nearly as enjoyable an experience for me as his works have been in the past.
I am enjoying the art project bit, though. We were able to choose the medium we wanted to work with, so I decided to go with one with which I was already relatively familiar: a comic book. :) I think it turned out pretty well. However, it is yet to be decided whether my junior year will end with misery, or with mirth. Maybe I could end up turning this tragedy around?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Well, It Sounds Like a Good Enough Answer, but I've Marked "C" Four Times Already...

When gazing out into the distance in a studying-induced haze yesterday, I realized something: Hey, I can actally READ again! After having ritually sacrificed a part of my soul and sanity on the altar of college preparation yesterday, I realized that after 3 hours of filling in bubbles and scratching out a couple of essays, AP US History testing was finally done with! Relishing my renewed freedom from practice tests and reference books, I discovered that my bookshelf was no longer bound from me.

(However, instead of immediately running into the now-open pages, my Dad took the Cheerleader out of school early, and the three of us celebrated with mall food court Chinese and an afternoon viewing of Thor). :)

The thing is, though, that my mind still was hooked on AP knowledge. I really wish I had done better. Don't get me wrong, I know I did pretty okay, to at least a passing grade level. However, I also know that there was plenty I could have done beforehand to get an even BETTER score. Everyone agreed afterwards that they wished they had commenced with the "freak-out studying" earlier, and it was only the ones with the best prep books and study habits that survived with their self value intact. Here are some bits of advice for future AP students - slightly obvious, but none the less true.

1. You need to ignore your friends. Obviously not completely, as in, make sure you're still on speaking terms by the end of it, but, for the most part, ignore their study habits and feelings about the test. Most of my crew didn't study hardcore until the week before, and attempts any earlier than that were roundly ridiculed. Study as much as you think you need to, regardless of criticism. Also, ignore the school-wide mythology that surrounds the test: that "one guy with a photographic memory who read the entire textbook the night before the test and got a perfect score" does not exist.

2. Cover material again after your teacher goes over it, and pay EXTRA attention to the material that they DON'T. My friend may have shown up for the test dressed exclusively in red, white, and blue, but certainly even the AP US History gods couldn't help her when confronted with a subject we never even covered in class. The point of AP testing is to gauge your mastery of the material. Therefore, master ALL of the material.

3. Realize that the test won't be as serious as you think it will be. It's fun, and don't forget it. Of course, the test ITSELF won't be fun, but the comradery you experience as a group will be. For instance, my friends organized study groups during lunch, after school, even in the middle of particularly useless classes, and we came away with not only a deeper understanding of the material, but a lot of hilarious inside jokes ("Was he the fat one?"). When we all opened our essay booklets, and an audible terror swept across the room, it was followed by a louder round of giggles, as we realized that, yes, we were sunk, but the rest of the crew would be going down, too. It's a bonding experience, so make the most out of it.

When it comes to the books, the prep I used was Fast Track to a 5: AP US History, as a companion to our school textbook. It was relatively well organized, and was extremely condensed. The things I appreciated about it the most were the AP Tip Sections sprinkled throughout, telling where information may come up on the test, and where to use it to your best advantage, as well as the focus points of the time period that were highlighted at the beginning of every chapter. Another great prep book was 5 Steps to a 5: AP US History, which two of my friends used. That one had a particularly useful glossary in the back, with the names and info of important phrases, occasions, and people.

So, now that I'm done with APUSH, and I'm totally prepared for the AP Eng test on Wednesday, I have plenty of time to get geared up for the ACT and SAT in June. :) And Finals, of course.