AP World History teachers shift to verbal assessments

August 30, 2018

Due to the intense memorization required and the difficult written tests, many students have claimed that AP World History was a major source of stress in their sophomore year. However, Milton sophomores who signed up for the class this year were met with a surprising change.


Rather than the traditional written test, AP World teachers have recently switched to oral assessments. Students are given a set of questions to prepare answers for, ranked by difficulty and depth. The questions are either bronze, silver or gold level.


Bronze answers are provided, while silver and  gold questions require additional reading and original thought to answer. In terms of grading, bronze level is a 70 percent, silver level is an 80 percent and gold level is a 90 percent. Students can do an additional enrichment activity at each level to gain extra points.


The oral assessments are given in a casual, conversational setting, called “one-to-ones.” Students sit down with the teacher, who asks the questions provided and marks whether the student’s response was correct or incorrect. Students have an infinite amount of attempts to finish a level, provided this is done so by the deadline for the unit.


Besides lectures and the occasional discussion on assigned reading, class time is mostly devoted to personal study. Students have opportunities to memorize the answers to the bronze, silver and gold questions both before and during the one-to-ones.


Bradlea Satchfield, an AP World History teacher, explains that the oral assessments provide a shift to “mastery-based learning,” based on whether a student has “mastered the standards or not,” which, Satchfield says, is better measured by verbal testing. The lack of written tests also lowers the amount of busy work and “makes it easier to know where each student is individually.”


The emphasis on mastery-based learning is not the only reason for the change in the assessment process, however. “There was a decent amount of cheating,” says Satchfield about the AP World classes in the past. “Verbal testing makes it more difficult to cheat.”


The change was designed to mimic Kevin Cavallaro’s AP Environmental Science class, which goes by the same testing system. Satchfield and Cavallaro, along with the other AP World teacher, Patricia Randolph, worked over the summer to design the new system.  


With this new oral assessment system, the concern rises that students might be ill-prepared for the AP exam in mid May, which is a written test. Satchfield points out that at least one essay is done in class for every unit, in order to prepare students for both the written portions of the exam as well as the time constraint.


Satchfield is optimistic about the year to come. As students are currently progressing through the levels of their first one-to-ones, Satchfield claims that “they seem to be doing well.” Any further adjustments made in the class structure will likely be determined by the AP exam scores at the end of the year.


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