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AP Biology and US History Exams Change to Emphasize Critical Thinking Skills
henry lewis 12 staff writer
February 3, 2011

There’s good news for underclassmen who are planning to take the Biology or US History AP exams. By the 2012-2013 school year, the College Board will implement changes in these AP tests.

The bulk of these changes are clearer guidelines for what will be on the exams, an increased emphasis on critical thinking rather than content, and for AP Biology, an attempt to make labs more stimulating and less structured.

Biology teacher Andrew Harcourt said, “In the last 30 years, I’ve seen AP Biology grow from a demanding course to a course that has pushed the limits of students’ capabilities to the edge.” He believed that “it’s time for the change.”

The new revisions will allow students to design their own labs to solve problems and make students comfortable with the scientific process of experimentation.

“The labs were too much memorization,” former biology student Pannawit Chanyarungrojn ’12 said.

U.S. History teacher Joseph Lyons also praised the new curricula’s emphasis on developing skills over memorization. Although he said that he couldn’t say much without actually seeing the test, he thought that “the movement away from content towards skills is more like what we’re trying to do at Deerfield.”

“Critical thinking is arguably the most important part of a history course. But at the same time, without knowing the sequence of events, it is difficult to accurately interpret any historical event. I believe the College Board will need to strike the right balance,” said Freddy Rockwood ’11.

Still, don’t expect biology or US History to become an easy course. The College Board will cut down on the multiple-choice but will focus more on the writing and critical thinking sections.

As Elvis Ikwa ’11, a current biology student, said, “The tests will still be challenging, just a different kind of difficult.”