First-years advance in testing

College first-years are exposed to a new culture of dorm life, strange personalities, and, most importantly — the difficulty of college classes. However, a study from the College Board has revealed that college first-years may now be increasing their level of preparedness.

According to the survey released Feb. 13, 15 percent of the public high school class of 2007 received at least one AP Exam score of 3 or higher, an equivalent to receiving credit in a college course.

This number represents a 3 percent increase from four years ago, when only 12 percent of high school seniors entered college with AP credit.

Though this may sound like good news for college students-to-be, there has been consistent debate in the past few months over the AP tests as indicators of college success.

The College Board sponsored two studies at the end of January that examined the effectiveness of AP tests, according to

The first survey was done with University of Texas and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The survey revealed that students participating in AP courses and exams received higher college grades, earned more credits, and graduated within four years at higher rates in comparison to other students.

The second report was also performed by the University of Texas at Austin. The data revealed that among four different entering classes at the university, students who earned credit through AP exams outperformed those students who did not take part in the AP program. The students measured were at the same academic level, indicated by their overall scores on the SAT exam.
However, professors had mixed feelings as to whether first-year students have become more prepared for college classes with the rise of AP exams.

At Carnegie Mellon, there are several classes in which AP credit is possible.

Interpretation and Argument is one such class specifically designed as a requirement for all first-year students.

If first-years receive a 5 on the AP English exam, they receive credit for the class. With any other score or no credit, they are required to complete it.

Several of the Interpretation and Argument instructors mentioned that they haven’t noticed a significant change in student preparedness over the past couple of years.

“In terms of basic writing skills students are perhaps better at the technical aspects of writing, but not the larger, ‘meta’ levels of argumentation,” said Eric Vasquez, an instructor for the course.

In terms of the English AP course and exam, Vasquez did not feel that it was necessarily a predicator of college success that it should not replace the required Interpretation and Argument.
Heather Steffen, another instructor, agreed with Vasquez and explained that AP English classes and the exam are more geared towards literature and creative writing, not actual academic argument.

“From my experience, the students who have taken AP classes and the test are just as unfamiliar with academic arguments and how to make them as the students who took regular high school English classes,” she said.

First-year civil engineering major Carolyn Johnson expressed her opinion that AP classes assist students in predicting how difficult college classes are going to be.

“Going through an entire year in a college setting is as close as you can get to the real thing,” Johnson said of her AP English course.

However, while AP work helps some students with the difficulty of work, the amount of work is a different story.

“I definitely do not feel like they helped me in any way to prepare for the workload at CMU,” said Alyssa Sellitti, a first-year H&SS student.

Carnegie Mellon offers credit for most classes for AP scores of four or higher.

Preparedness aside, some students are just excited by the prospect of simply getting a head start on college credits.

“I took seven APs,” first-year Science and Humanities Scholar Adam Rice said. “The tests themselves didn’t do a whole lot to prepare for CMU, but they gave me a lot of credit so I can take less classes.”