Collegeboard Revamps Advanced Placement Courses

In February, Collegeboard will release the revamped curriculum for both AP Biology and AP United States History. These changes are in direct response to the increasing concern that the two classes are too demanding and memorization-based. The change is set to take effect for the 2012-2013 school year, with both courses’ material and AP tests to be significantly altered.

AP Biology students are currently required to read 56 chapters of material, which amounts to 1,400 pages of reading in a time frame of only a little over a full semester.

“There is currently more material than can be covered,” AP Biology teacher Meghan Shuff said.

This dense amount of material often overwhelms students and causes teachers to rush through the chapters.

“I often compromise learning the broader picture with memorizing all the small details,” junior Gabi Hamlett said. “We [students] are constantly guessing on what you can skip over and what you have to truly focus on.”

In response, Collegeboard has cut down 20 of the 56 chapters currently required to be taught in AP Biology. Instead of covering numerous themes, the new AP Biology course will focus on four overarching ideas: evolution, a systematic approach to nature, response to information and complex interaction.

“I’m so excited because that’s what real science is: inquiry and critical thinking,” Shuff said. “With the changes next year, our [AP Biology] class can finally go more in-depth. With more time, there will definitely be more critical thinking [and] writing about current biological issues.”

Furthermore, Collegeboard will also be introducing more hands-on labs that will motivate students to formulate questions and compile and analyze data. Along with the new curriculum, the AP Biology exam will also be revised by reducing half of the multiple choice questions, introducing five new math questions, and doubling the number of free response questions to nine total.

Currently, the AP US History course is similar to AP Biology in terms of both time commitment and memorization dependence.

“[AP US History] is extremely interesting, but can be tedious sometimes,” junior Nikita Rajan said. “With several chapters to read every night and terms to be completed, I think many of us [students] feel like there’s just not enough time for everything.”

However, similar changes will also be applied to the AP US History course, with the new curriculum focusing on nine time periods and seven overarching themes. The redesigned course will aim to take out nit-picky details, such as the memorization of individual time and dates, and instead stimulate critical thinking and understanding of the bigger picture.

AP US History teacher Gabriel Stewart said that because critical thinking is already a key part of his class, the new changes may not have a drastic effect. However he hopes that Collegeboard can “craft a test that follows one rule: if a student works hard in the class, he or she will be rewarded.”