Students prepare for inaugural administration of AP Seminar exam


Haeli Spears

Photo by Hannah Phillips.

Sophomores in Manual’s inaugural cohort of AP Seminar students are currently working with teachers to prepare for the school’s first administration of the class’s Advanced Placement exam.

AP Seminar is part of the College Board’s AP Capstone initiative, a two-year program that focuses on development of research and communication skills. After completing the AP Seminar class, which counts as a tenth grade English credit, students may take the second Capstone course—AP Research—as a junior year elective credit.

According to Mr. Michael Crain (English), administrators decided to introduce AP Capstone at Manual in order to develop students’ writing skills.

“College professors were saying that AP kids were great at taking tests, but not very good at writing or talking about ideas,” he said. “They felt while they had a lot of content, they didn’t know what to do with the content.”

Crain is teaching a portion of this year’s AP Seminar classes, along with Ms. Jill Bickel (English) and Ms. Betsey Bell (English).

The course is divided into two main units—the first, in which students develop basic research and analysis skills, and the second, in which students apply their newfound knowledge.

“The first semester, you work with students to teach them how to write, teach them how to research, and you explore topics in depth. You read a variety of different genres … and you explore those ideas,” Crain said. “Then the second semester, they have to perform those same tasks you practiced the first semester.”

The AP Seminar exam is divided into three tasks: an individual written report, a team written report and a multiple choice section that involves reading and analyzing new passages. Only the multiple choice portion of the assessment is administered as a traditional AP exam—both written reports are submitted ahead of time during the second semester.

Owen Fitzgerald (10, YPAS) said that the pre-submitted test materials will be evaluated based on a number of different criteria.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of information about the test, but we know that it contains multiple choice and written responses,” he said. “The written responses judge your analytical skills, like finding the thesis, claims [and] evidence, and also comparison skills, as well as summarizing and paraphrasing.”

Students have the option of choosing among a wide range of subjects for their reports, all of which stem from resources provided by the College Board.

“My group’s topic is why travel restrictions to Cuba should be lifted, so I wrote about the environmental benefits of lifting it, and my team members wrote about the economic, political and cultural aspects of it,” Caroline Foshee (10, J&C) said. “For the second task … one article we read was about dying languages because of globalization, so I might do mine about another—but more specific—effect of globalization.”

The on-site portion of the AP Seminar exam will take place on Thursday, May 5.