Guess away

Erin Wronka, Entertainment Editor

      Those few (or many, in some students’ cases) multiple-choice questions loom in front of you, daring you to take that educated guess. With a fourth of a point being deducted from your final score per wrong answer, you’re not sure whether or not to take the risk. The idea of getting at least a 3 is on your mind and it’s hard to tell if it’s better to get no point by leaving the answer space blank or chance losing some, although the answer could be right. All of this thought into one question and only having 60 minutes to finish is a huge dilemma for students around the country, but thankfully the 2011 Advanced Placement exams have eliminated this problem. The College Board recently decided that there is no penalty on the tests, meaning that guessing and getting the answer wrong won’t subtract from your score. Depending on how it’s viewed, this new system has great perks to it, but maybe some negatives. Either way, it’s something new, which always takes getting used to.

                Without having to worry about if those guesses will ruin your chance of passing, students should have an easier go on the exams this year. Now you can actually pick between those two answers that make sense to you, without having as much doubt about your final choice. If you do get it wrong, nothing additional will be subtracted, so it will be like a normal test you take at school. Students will most likely be more used to this system so they can feel more comfortable on the AP exams.

                One problem making some people doubt the advantages to no penalty is that the exams may be harder to pass.  Junior Michael Baldwin, who got a 5 on the AP World History exam, makes a good point.

                “I believe students’ exams are graded against each others, so without the guessing penalty, the scores are likely to be higher, and therefore it’s ultimately going to be tougher to get a 4 or 5,” he said.

                Another possible issue is that students shouldn’t be getting too used to the no penalty because that one test which matters even more than those AP exams, aka the SAT, won’t be giving this privilege. The College Board also designs this huge test, so keep in mind that there is still a guessing penalty for those juniors and seniors taking a whack at it this year.

                There may be a few worries about no guessing penalty, but in the long run it should benefit students, especially for those who already took the chance of guessing.

                “I hate leaving answers blank, so I eliminated possible choices and guessed,” Michael said.

                Senior Jonell Gregor who’s now taken a few AP exams, is feeling quite a bit of relief from the new system. Her experience is a lot like those of many other students.

                “I think getting rid of the guessing penalty is a great idea. While studying last year, the penalty caused extra stress. I was always asking, ‘Well how many problems is it okay to skip.’ and ‘well, what if I think I know it, but I don’t want to get a ¼ a point off.’ I was always nervous that my wrong answer penalty would be the reason for me not passing, even if I got a lot of the answers right. I think getting rid of the penalty will give some kids peace of mind, especially those taking more than one exam. When I was taking my AP exams, if I wasn’t 100% confident in my answer, I didn’t mark it down. Even if I narrowed some questions down to two possible answers I didn’t mark an answer on my sheet.”

                “I know that when it comes closer to exam times I won’t be as stressed. The only thing that could be bad about the no penalty rule is that someone might not study as hard because they think they can get by with just guessing, but those AP tests are tough,” Jonell said.

                While students think that no penalty will help, AP US History teacher Penny Cathey believes that in the long run it won’t affect the scores too much.

                 “I kind of liked it the old way, but I don’t think it’s going to change anything. Some people who don’t know as much I suppose they could make a few lucky guesses, but the people who know it will make a better guess anyway, so I think it all balances itself out. My advice is to just keep studying,” Mrs. Cathey said.     

                The College Board designs things like what the Advanced Placement classes will cover and what questions make up the exams in May. The idea that there is no penalty for guesses is just the start of changes being made to several of its courses and programs. Starting with this new policy on guessing, many of the courses’ lesson plans are being redesigned in the near future. Whatever does change with the AP programs, Jonell and Michael have a word of advice for aspiring AP students.

                “For anyone taking AP World History this year, don’t take the class so seriously that you get freaked out. Have some fun with it,” Michael said.

                “Good luck to everyone taking exams. Especially the juniors; don’t stress yourself out. Believe you can do it and you will pass,” Jonell said.

                The passing rates of East Lake’s Advanced Placement students are rising every year and with no guessing penalty the numbers should be even higher. Don’t let this new policy throw you off track, though. It takes a lot to do well in an AP class, so don’t think the courses will be any easier because you won‘t be penalized for guessing. It will help when it comes down to that final exam, but the better you do in the class the easier the test will be with or without a penalty. Students everywhere will hopefully reap the benefits of this change.