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Bratty - quill
Posted on Monday 9 June 2014 at 8:09 am

AP Grading

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I'm home! Hooray home!

I spent last week in Louisville, Kentucky grading AP exams for the third year in a row and I'm completely exhausted. For those who don't know, AP stands for Advanced Placement and high school students can take AP classes in a variety of subjects and then sit a standard exam for each subject. Many colleges will give credit for basic college courses if students score well enough on the exams. I entered college as a sophomore due in large part to all the AP exams that I took my last two years of high school (US History, US Government, English Literature, English Composition, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Psychology - at least I think that's all of them that I took). The exams are taken by hundreds of thousands of students and every exam is a mix of multiple choice questions and essays, which means someone has to grade all those essays. Lots of someones for lots of essays and I was one of those someones. I graded somewhere around 1200-1300 essays this past week.

The AP grading really is insane. They manage to do what I would have thought impossible: industrialize grading. FOr the US history exam alone, which is one of if not the biggest, they have thousands of high school AP teachers and college professors sitting at hundreds of tables (eight readers per table) in one HUGE room that is jokingly called the airplane hangar. There are standard grading rubrics that pretty much mean everyone is grading not completely the same but almost certainly within one point of each other. Meals are provided (as are hotel rooms, flights to and from the reading, etc.) and not only are there set start, lunch, and stop times but there are two snack breaks (morning and afternoon) and announced Stretch Breaks of a couple of minutes in between the snack breaks and the start/lunch/stop times. You can get up, stretch and move around, go to the bathroom, etc. whenever you want, but the stretch breaks are still the official time for it. It is so weird.

The exam format for several years (including when I took it in 1999 and this year) is one large question that all students must answer which includes primary sources that they must analyze (called the Document Based Question or DBQ) and two sets of two questions each out of which each student must answer one from each set (so answer 1A or 1B AND 2A or 2B kind of thing). The format is changing next year, which had all the high school teachers anxious this year about how they're going to teach for the new format, but for now that readers are divided into four groups, one for each of the four short questions, for the first half of the week (actually a little more) then everyone reads the DBQ for the second half of the week (actually a little less). The short answer I was on this year was on whether the goals of post Civil War Reconstruction (1865-1877) regarding African Americans were met by 1900. The DBQ was on US foreign policy post WW1 through the Korean War. Some students do wonderfully on the exam, most are mediocre, and some either try but do terribly or don't even try and just draw pictures or write stories or leave the booklet blank. It is amazing how many students on the foreign policy question went from post WW1 in 1918 to post Korea in 1953 without mentioning WW2. I graded something like 975 to 980ish short essays and about 300 of the long ones over 7 days.

So, yeah, I'm exhausted. The good part of the grading is that the Louisville Convention Center where we grade is surrounded by quality bars and restaurants and I have several friends who also do the grading so the nights out on the town are fun. The bad part of that is it just adds to the exhaustion from the grading itself. Totally worth it, though :) Besides, now I'm home now and get to relax for a day. The plan is to spend today settling back in - grocery shopping, laundry, general recuperating - before starting back up on the dissertation tomorrow.


Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 6:19 pm on 09 June 2014 (UTC) (Link)
That sounds incredible. I think exam papers are still sent out to teachers' homes to mark here. 1200 essays sounds extraordinary!

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