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Today I just took the AP Statistics exam, where you have to get about 60% of the total points in order to get a 5 on it. I thought that was very absurd that they set the bar that low, since the test turned out to be easier than any of the tests I took throughout the year. I also heard that AP Stat is one of the easier AP exams to study for. With a bar that low, I thought that everybody would be able to get a 5. But surprisingly, it turns out that only 12% of the people who took it last year did. On the other hand, over 40% of the people taking the test failed. I'm not sure how low you have to score to get a 1 or a 2, but I know it's definitely a very, very low number.
But it's not like AP Statistics is an anomaly. I think that Last year, over 900k high schoolers graduated taking at least one AP exam. Those would be about the top 25% of high school graduates. But about 40% of them did not score a 3 on a single one. That's about $2.5 million worth of tests right there.
Despite the fact that AP tests are supposed to be a mark of rigor, I personally have never found most of them to be exceptionally thought-provoking. I've been able to pass all seven I've taken, including physics, which I didn't feel like I knew anything about. I know my success definitely hasn't been from hard work - I've barely studied for any of them, and I think the general easiness of the AP tests have lulled me into a false sense of security and encouraged sloppy studying skills for me. '
I'm not blaming the students for having such a low passage rate. Not everyone is lucky enough to have good test taking skills and supportive teachers like me. But I think it is a bit worrisome that even the top students seem to lack what has seemed to me as basic academic capability. I know that tests can't measure perfectly, but I feel like if you get a 1 on the AP English Language exam, you would have some significant gaps in your reading and writing skills. And if you fail the US History exam, I'm not sure how you could survive a college course in that subject.
I know that not everyone has to be a scholar. But I don't think having low test scores is really positive for the country either, especially at a time when the world is becoming more competitive and it's just another thing reflecting on the poor state of education in the US as a whole. But whose fault is it when so many students feel the need to take a $80 test but end up getting nothing out of it?