Finishing the Year with AP Seminar

Image created on Canva by GUSTAVO BATISTA

AP Seminar is a class available for sophomores, juniors, and seniors where students do research and major projects on specific topics they decide to base their projects on. Over the year the class will be given essays to prepare students for the exam near the end of the year.

Throughout the year, the essays include “implementing and citing evidence, constructing a TPR thesis statement (the topic, position, and  reasoning, the topic is what the question the person is answering, position is what they stand on with the topic, their opinion, and reasoning is to back themselves up briefly) and finding links between multiple sources,” Ethan Chen, a sophomore taking AP Seminar, explained. Along with implementing evidence and links, the class does a “couple practice argument essays where you have to identify the argument an author makes in an article, explain their line of reasoning, and the credibility and strength of the evidence they used,” Chen further elaborated.

Chen finds the class is perfect “if someone capable of time management skills and is able to present and participate in class discussions effectively.” This class, for Chen, was interesting due to helping him build his research and writing skills, boosting both confidence with presenting and public speaking. 

Other students decided to do an AP Seminar for the Capstone program; if students pass AP Seminar with a score of four or five on the exam and pass AP Research as well as four other additional AP classes and exams, they receive a special distinction for colleges, giving them a great advantage in being accepted or making them stand out more from other candidates.

Avani Chhetri, a sophomore and classmate of Chen, talks about how the class has improved her writing skills a lot. “I feel like I learned a lot about writing and how to write with simplicity. I enjoyed some parts of the class like working together with my friends.” 

Due to this class being an AP level class, some deadlines were challenging for Chhetri, but she still managed to push through and enjoy her time in Seminar. She specifically liked that, “for the second part of the class we would pick our own topics.” Giving her and her peers creative writing or talking space where they could share their ideas they found interesting. 

Chhetri signed up for AP Seminar because she was looking forward to improving her writing skills. She recommends this class to students that enjoy research and to be ready to focus on this course. 

“The class is heavily based on research, so if you like fiction we don’t do that until the AP exam is completely over. You need to be on top of your work and be ready to receive straightforward criticism,” Chhetri said, solidifying the class’ status for an AP course. After the AP exams, Chhetri has “felt the most relieved” she has ever felt this year. She feels proud to have come such a long way and made it through such a difficult class. In terms of how she thinks she did on the exam, Chhetri thinks she did okay and felt like “our teacher prepared us a lot for the exam so when I was taking it, I wasn’t scared because I knew I was prepared.”

Mailee “Moon” To has found this class to be very stressful for her, but not a bad first AP class and a good start. “It [was] a new experience especially since it’s an AP class… but now that I think back, the work was not as bad as it felt during the process.” While having an AP Seminar is a great experience to have, To can look back at this class with the newfound knowledge she has learned. Throughout the year, To, “learned a lot of new writing and presentation skills.” At first, she thought she wouldn’t learn a lot through essay writing but was proven wrong after the “different requirements for quotations and formatting that make my arguments cohesive and overall have better writing structures.” 

The presentations originally caught To off guard and she ended up realizing, “there are a lot of notable skills that I learned for presenting to an audience that are totally different from

what I was taught years past.” Giving her new experiences and insights for what may come in the future if she ever may need to speak to a huge crowd of people.

While she may have found some of the work stressful, To also enjoyed the work. “It was a lot of essay writing and analysis at the beginning of the year plus a few presentation exercises, but then we went into the actual exam portion and did two presentations and two important essays.” 

Some things she did wish were a bit different are the topics she was given; she wishes she could have focused more on topics she had found interesting to her personally and go over themes that are harder to understand. She originally joined AP Seminar due to her love for English. “English is one of my favorite subjects and a lot of my older friends recommended it.” 

When it comes to recommending this class to other students alike, she “would only recommend it to those who like working alongside their peers as well as English entirely. It is obviously a ton of reading and analysis but it is necessary to work with a lot of people. I would also really recommend it for those who really want Capstone.” 

Most of her peers she had worked with did not want to continue and finish the second requirement for Capstone, which “would be taking AP Research in the following years after taking Seminar.” A good point of view on this from To is that at least it is a great GPA boost. She explained that even though you may feel miserable taking the course, when you “accomplish everything, a wave of relief just goes over you and you just realize the class wasn’t as bad as it seems.”

To wants to make sure people know that while Seminar is an English class, it isn’t “based purely on not just writing skills but also the ability to present and make a cohesive argument, requiring a lot of memorization, working with others and inflexible deadlines.” This course is structured differently than other AP courses due to the exam being done during the second semester and not just one exam day. 

The exam is cut into three parts where the students must write an independent research report (IRR) and then a group presentation in relation to the report. To found the exam day “extremely easy in comparison to the other parts of the course assessment where you simply have a two-part writing assessment.” 

She felt as if the results of the exams are based on how much background knowledge you have on the world since they “encourage you to really think outside of the box, and how much you can correlate that knowledge into the themes of the article they give you.” 

To get more of a teacher’s insight and another point of view of this class, the AP Seminar teacher, Jennifer Clapp, taught three AP classes this year, two being AP Seminar and one AP Literature. 

“Seminar is a great class for anybody who is academically ambitious because you really learn how to do the kind of writing that you do in every subject area, not just the study of literature. It is really about argumentation and backing your claims with really good evidence. Even if you are a science person and not as much of an English person, it is a really great class to take. We have a really good success rate with this class, virtually every year, everybody gets a qualifying score from a college board. We are one of the few classes to have a consistent 100% pass rate for an AP class.”

Clapp has always loved AP Seminar for how student-centered it is. “I’m not allowed to help them with the stuff they do with The College Board, so I have to teach them how to be independent and self-reliant and it is very rewarding at the end of the year to see students be like this,” said Clapp. Her goal as a teacher is to have her students not need her and learn enough to be able to be independent and do work by themselves or “monitor” themselves.

As the exams have ended and Seminar is coming to an end, “everybody seemed cheerful and happy to be there. I also bring cookies for the exam, and nobody has come to me saying ‘oh I was awful this year,’” Clapp said. She expressed her satisfaction with how much she thought the students were prepared and how great it was.

Wanting to add her own little detail, Clapp really believes in the AP program “and its ability to meet the national standard, getting a certain score in AP Literature, AP Seminar, and all APs alike means the same thing no matter what High School you go to, it really prepares students for college and proves that they have this skill that they need to be successful.”

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