By Morghan Holt
by Morghan Holt
The Havre Daily News
Friday, May 14
The pressures on: palms sweating, heart pounding, clock ticking, pencil scribbling, the first hour of the test is almost over. The timer buzzes, and pencils onto the tables. After a short break, students are back in their places, refreshed and ready to go. The second half begins. Things are going well; its a little tougher, but there are no brain busters yet. Then, BAM, there it is. That problemthat one measly conceptthat mind boggling question that just wasnt covered in the book.
Its bound to happen, even to the calmest, most well-prepared test takers. They are going to run across at least one problem that they cant solve, one question that they cant answer, or one essay that they cant write. They bought all the books, studied night and day, and are now racking their brains for that bit of information needed to deliver the right answer. But it isnt there. It wasnt mentioned in the books, they didnt have it in their notes, it is possible that the teacher discussed it on the one day they were absent. Regardless of the amount of studying a single person does, it is impossible for him to promptly produce the answer to every question on the test.
The odds of answering every question correctly on a test such as the Advanced Placement examinations offered at Havre High School, however, are significantly increased by the presence of a dedicated teacher and a little motivation. From my own experience with these tests, I have learned that, for the most part, you cannot teach yourself advanced placement material from a book. Thinking that I could, I bought the AP books, which are supposedly the best in test preparation material. While I found the books useful guides, and substantial in terms of review information, there was no way I could have taught myself, on the basis of the scant material provided on the pages, what I could have learned in a course.
The problem with books like those for the AP preparation, is that their readers use them as a sole source of information, a sort of shortcut to being fully prepared for the examination. Unfortunately, the shortcut method does not work. Math Made Easy, Hooked on Phonics, and the hundreds of other instructional shortcut programs are designed with the expectation that their users will be dedicated to learning and mastering what they have to teach. With the right amount of dedication and routine practice, these tools can be extremely beneficial, even teaching their users much of what they need to know. However, these tools are also only guidelines, a skeletal arrangement of the course. The outline is there, but theyre missing the meat. No matter how thorough a course review book might be, it cannot replace the courseand if it can, there is something wrong with the course. Using a test preparation book to replace the course and expecting to be ready for a big exam is like reading Cliff notes and pretending to be an expert on Shakespeare.