With more students taking Advanced Placement courses in high schools for college credit, inevitably more kids are not passing the AP exams at the end of the school year. The latest count is that 41.5 percent of AP students get a disappointing 1 or 2 on the test, up from 36.5 percent a decade ago. Clearly, a little extra class work and exam prep is in order to bring their grades up a notch or two.
On top of Cerebellum’s hundreds of curriculum videos, its Light Speed series of DVDs can get kids ready for the exam with a quickie program that condenses the AP curriculum into two discs. While there are 37 AP exams in 22 disciplines, so far, the company has put together only four AP exam prep courses for English Language and Composition, History of the U.S., Chemistry and U.S. Government and Politics.
If the U.S. History prep discs are any indication, I hope they put together others in a hurry. It’s not perfect, but the program is a big help for students studying for the AP exams.
Each package is a two disc set that has videos, a digital workbook and a multitude of test taking tips and tricks. The U.S. History set has a light and airy feel to it with young actors talking about test taking, what will be on the test and how to be comfortable taking the test. There’s valuable information about the test in general and some nice specific ideas on how to do well on it.
My favorite part is the 30 in 30 video, a fast-forward look at the curriculum that promises to squeeze 30 major topics into 30 minutes, but like any good lecturer runs over its allotted time. It has a lot of general historical trends from why the colonists came to America to the effect of the Tariff of 1832 to a look at the Constitutional amendments.
It is actually a good quickie look at the major topics taught during the year and I think can help kids organize their thoughts for the all-important essays on the exam. On the other hand, I would have liked to have seen more depth and detail.
As a result it totally ignores important events, like the Spanish American War. But, the biggest problem is that the exam prep material goes through the end of the Cold War. That, however, isn’t enough because the test can cover more up-to-date material, leaving a 20-year gap.
The Workbook disc complements this material with a 22-page Acrobat file with a slew of handouts that digest the year’s learning into charts, bullets and major themes. There’re also hundreds of multiple choice, matching and fill in questions.
Unfortunately, the prep program misses a huge opportunity by not linking any of this material to the videos or supplementary online material. Plus, you can’t type onto the digital sheets so printing them out is the only option
With the exam itself costing $86, the $11.24 price of the Light Speed AP prep courses are a genuine bargain. On the other hand, there’s no way that 74 minutes of video a 22 pages of review can get a student ready for a college-level exam on its own. It’s an excellent adjunct to a well-taught AP course, but the History of the U.S. AP Exam Prep course is no substitute for 9-months of hard work.
In the final analysis, it will work best for those who have put in the time to understand and absorb the classroom material so that the Light Speed discs will serve to reinforce it.
+ Videos and workbook
+ Nice overview
+ Engaging content
- Only covers 4 AP subject areas
- Need to print worksheets
- Material is not up to date
- Lacks detail and depth