AP exams can be daunting for students—and just as daunting for the teachers entrusted to effectively prep those students to succeed. However, these anxieties can be reduced by providing well-constructed test prep assessment items. Not only will students reap the benefits, but teachers will feel better when preparing their classes for the AP exams.
So how does one write these effective assessment items? Start with this simple checklist:
- Use application over recall
- Focus on analysis
- Use visuals: cartoons, photos, maps, or artifacts
- Compare and contrast
The Importance of Application
The AP Government exam will not ask students to recall specific names or dates. Instead, students will be tested in their ability to apply their knowledge to specific scenarios. The assessment items used to prepare students should mimic that level of application. Don’t just ask students to know; ask them to show what they know and how it connects to real-life politics.
Students shouldn’t just identify governing documents or Supreme Court decisions; they should also evaluate and interpret the causes and effects. Think Bloom’s Taxonomy levels 3 and 4, even 5: apply, analyze, and evaluate. Assessment items should be created to ask students how these documents and decisions shape and influence our world.
Visuals are Effective Testing Tools
Not all historical information comes in the form of a 200-year-old governing document. In every period of history, political cartoonists have illustrated the nuances of our government through a well-drawn cartoon. When writing assessment items, use this wealth of political cartoons from throughout history. The addition of visuals will shake up the testing environment and increase student engagement.
But why stop at cartoons? Visual literacy is a key component in test taking, so use propaganda posters from World War II, campaign materials, iconic photos, or electoral maps. Ask students to analyze these visuals and apply their knowledge of governing principles.
Compare and Contrast
Government is a delicate balance, and sometimes a power struggle. It’s vital to create assessment items that ask students to compare and contrast points of view within this power struggle. This allows for higher-order analysis from multiple perspectives on a single event or scenario. The governing documents of our history cover a wide political spectrum. Ask students to compare and contrast points of view on multiple sources.
The use of multiple sources and a deep analysis of those sources is key to effective AP test preparation. With this short checklist, you will be providing teachers and students with highly effective assessment items.