Category Archives: High School

AP or IB?

With scheduling season coming up now is a great time to consider taking higher level classes. I have taught both IB and AP courses, attended several training for IB and AP, and been an AP grader. I hope, therefore, I am able provide a solid summary of the differences between the two programs.  Since I no longer teach high school and have no vested interest encouraging students to do one program or another, I am also free to be completely honest in my assessments.

  1. Which is less expensive and easier to implement for schools and students?  AP
  • The fees to set up an IB school can often be prohibitively expensive. This is why we don’t see a whole lot of smaller schools or private schools going the IB route – they can’t achieve the economies of scale that make it worth the investment.  IB works best financially in a large school district where one high school can be designated the “IB Magnet” school, drawing students interested in the program from throughout the district.
  • AP does not require any school wide investment; individual courses can be easily implemented rather than an entire program.  The IB requires full, school-wide implementation of the program, so a school cannot implement just one IB course at a time.  Moreover, there is an extremely rigorous school approval process before the IB program can even be allowed at the school.  This does help ensure a higher level of program quality, but it can be a major paperwork hurdle for a school administration.
  • As far as student fees to take the exams, AP is a bit less expensive.  If you take multiple IB exams, the costs are comparable, but if you are doing just one or two IB exams, the mandatory student fee can add quite a bit to the costs.
  • Finally, AP will allow individual students to take an AP exam without having taken the AP course.  IB doesn’t allow this, so self-study is not an option.
  1. What kind of student prefers each program?  It depends on the student.

Do AP if you like:

  • Multiple Choice Tests : AP Tests typically have multiple choice questions as roughly half of the overall AP assessment, and free response the other half.
  • More structured in-class essay writing: The rubrics for AP essay grading are more straight-forward and less open to interpretation than the more holistic rubrics for IB.
  • If you are able to quickly memorize information: You need to know a broader array of facts for the AP assessments.
  • You don’t care for big papers and projects: Most AP teachers will model their in-class assessments on the AP exams, which are generally combinations of multiple choice and free response.  It is unlikely that you will have as many large research papers or presentations in AP since these types of projects do not prepare you for the AP exams.
  • You learn well with lecture: It is more likely that your AP teacher will use lecture to cover the vast amount of material that’s needed for the AP exam.  There are plenty of AP teachers who don’t do this, but in my experience, lecture often comes with the territory in AP.

Do  IB if you like:

  • Writing: You will have tons of writing to do for IB.  The Extended Essay, Internal Assessments, and in-class essays, just to name a few.  There are relatively few multiple choice questions in IB.  If you are looking to improve your writing skills, you will definitely do so in the IB program.
  • Going in-depth: On many of the IB assessments, particularly those in the humanities, you will find that you are required to achieve mastery of deep areas of knowledge rather than going through a broader survey.
  • You like working in groups: There are more opportunities for group activities in the IB assessments and in-class activities.  Although an AP teacher may encourage group work, it is hard to not do group work as a part of IB.
  • You enjoy projects and presentations: In IB you will have all sorts of portfolio projects and unique internal assessments.  If you are good at demonstrating your knowledge in ways other than multiple choice tests, then IB may be right for you.
  • You don’t procrastinate: If you put off doing your internal assessments and extended essay, you will be in a ton of trouble.  If you have the discipline to get things done over a period of time, you will find IB tough but manageable.
  • You are interested in the intersection of different types of knowledge: AP is much more compartmentalized, i.e. the AP U.S. History course won’t discuss anything from the AP Physics Course.  In IB, particularly if you are doing the Theory of Knowledge course, you will look quite a bit at how we claim to know what we know, and what that means in different areas of scholarship.
  1. Which is more widely accepted by colleges?  AP for the most part.
  • If you are like most American Students and plan on going to college in the U.S., AP will make it easier to get college credit.  Although more and more colleges are becoming familiar with IB, many schools are behind the times and are more willing to award credit to AP students.  In addition, you may need to do the Higher Level IB course (a more rigorous 2 year option) in order to earn college credit.  With AP, and most colleges will give you credit after just a one year course.  The only way to be certain about this is to ask the colleges to which you want to apply what their policies are.
  • If you are thinking about going abroad for college, IB might make it easier.  IB was originally formed to make it possible for students who had to move around Europe a good bit to be able to transfer between schools without trouble.  Since so few American students are thinking about going to Europe, Canada or elsewhere for college, this usually isn’t a selling point.  (In my opinion, Americans should consider doing this.)  If, however, you are open to international schools, IB can be a plus.
  1. Which prepares you more for college coursework?  For the most part, IB does.
  • Freshman-level introductory courses are often survey classes that involve multiple choice tests, some essay work, and quite a bit of lecture.  AP will prepare students very well for these types of classes.  For upper level courses and independent studies that involve quite a bit of research and writing, IB is far superior in helping students learn the process.
  1. Which will likely have better teachers?  IB may have better teachers for the following three reasons:
  • Better training.  Having attended both IB and AP training, I found that the IB training to be more comprehensive.  We received more materials, had better discussion, and had smaller workshops.
  • They choose to do it.  Since IB is typically done as a “school within a school”, the teachers who teach IB courses typically want to be there.  This is not always the case, of course, but I think it is more likely than would be the case with AP teachers.
  • They choose what to cover.  IB allows teachers the flexibility to go in-depth into areas about which they are knowledgeable and passionate.  AP mandates covering everything more superficially.  This difference will be far more pronounced in the humanities courses than in math/science, but even in the IB math/science courses there is more opportunity for outstanding educators to do what they would really like to do.
  1. Do colleges prefer IB over AP, or vice versa, when it comes to applying?  
  • The consensus I have found is “no”.  Colleges want to see applicants who are doing the toughest courses offered at their high schools.  Both IB and AP constitute “tough” courses, so do whichever one you prefer and don’t worry about how it will look to college admissions officers.
  1. Are there any other options if I don’t want to do IB or AP? 
  • Yes!  Try to take college classes while you are in high school!  Talk to your guidance counselor about the logistics of this, but many states will allow you to take classes at State Universities at no cost while you are a high school student.

I look forward to your comments on this piece.  If you found it helpful, please share it with your friends and colleagues.  Thank you.

How should I study?

The two most important things are to:

  1. Be Active, Not Passive
  2. Make Your Studying Like the Assessment

When you study, it is essential that you study actively – you must not sit there and expect that by putting in an hour of studying you will magically know more material.  Constantly ask yourself questions and monitor your understanding.  Here are some examples of Active vs. Passive Studying:

ACTIVE STUDYING PASSIVE STUDYING
Asking yourself questions about your notes and rewording what you have previously written. Just “looking over” your notes
Putting what the teacher says into your own words when you are listening to lecture. Simply hearing what the teacher is saying in lecture.
Annotating, summarizing, and analyzing while you read a text. Moving your eyes over the pages while thinking about something else.
Creating and studying flashcards based on your review guide. Skimming over the terms on your review guide without thinking about them.
Targeting your focus on your weak areas. Studying everything with equal focus.

The big idea is that much like the world of work, simply showing up and hanging out for eight hours does not mean you actually accomplished anything that day.  It’s the same with studying.  More time does not necessarily equal more knowledge.  If you only perceive the material but do not think about it, you will not fully understand it and you will have wasted your time.

When I was in college calculus, I had a solutions manual that accompanied my textbook.  For my first exam, I studied in a passive way – I simply read over the solutions to problems without actually solving them myself.  I did terribly on my exam.  For my next test, I committed myself to the hard work of doing the problems without peeking at the tempting solutions manual.  The results were much better.

Since most assessments will test your in-depth memory and understanding of the material, active studying will only help you in your preparation for the test.  You must take this a step further by ensuring that your studying replicates the type of thought process that will be necessary when you demonstrate your knowledge.  Be flexible in how you prepare – get out of your comfort zone when necessary.

Let me give you a personal example.  A couple of summers ago, I was asked to give a talk at an educational conference.  My natural inclination to prepare myself was to sit in front of my computer and read over my remarks in my head.  However, since I had never done a talk like this before, I decided to hire a professional speech coach to help me do my best.

My speech coach gave me some awesome advice:  make your practice like your presentation.  Instead of brainstorming on the computer, brainstorm vocally since that is how you would deliver it.  Instead of reading over the notes on the screen, actively present them in a room.  Rather than assuming  timing and delivery would be fine, practice in front of others to take care of any potential issues.

If you are going to have an oral presentation as your assessment, practice as you will be assessed.  If you are going to have a multiple choice test, do multiple choice practice.  If you will have an essay, do essay prewriting practice.  If your preparation does not match the way you will be tested, you are wasting your time.

I hope you found this discussion helpful.  If so, I would invite you to share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

 

#MondayMotivation-10 tips to motivate you to study

If senioritis (or junioritis, sophmoritis, or freshmanitis for that matter) is kicking in here are some great tips to help you get motivated to study.

  1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  So often, we set ourselves up to fail by telling ourselves that we must do everything we can to get a perfect on the test or we may as well not even try.  Procrastination is sometimes a defense mechanism against the possibility of failure. If you put things off, you’ll at least have an excuse as to why you didn’t succeed, whereas if you try and fail, you have no one to blame but yourself.  Don’t fall into this mindset.  Classes in school are very rarely pass or fail.  If you can put in 30 minutes and it can earn you a B but it would take you two hours to earn an A, at least put insometime so that you can have a decent, if not perfect, result.
  2. Studying doesn’t have to be miserable.  Ask yourself what you can do to make your studying experience more pleasant.  Do you like having music on in the background?  Is there a favorite food or beverage that you can reserve for study times?  Is there a relaxing place that you can go?  Figure out what is within your control to make the studying experience more tolerable.
  3. Schedule a clear beginning and end to your studying.  If you have a giant chunk of time when you will be “studying” but you know you will spend most of your time being distracted, you won’t get much done at all.  Start with a clear beginning and a clear end to your studying and even though it seems like you won’t have enough time to finish things, you will be far more efficient and focused this way.
  4. Ask for structure if you can’t get it from within.  If you know that you are unable to create a structured study plan for yourself, enlist the help of others to make it happen.  It’s just like having a personal trainer to help you get in shape!  Here are some ideas:
    • Ask a teacher if you can come into his or her room to study so you won’t be distracted by other students in study hall.
    • Ask a friend or parent to hold your cell phone or video games for you until you get what you need done.
    • Go to your parent’s place of work to get things done after school and then come home when you are ready to have fun.
  5. Get the studying over with so you can enjoy uninterrupted fun.  Realize that you will enjoy watching TV, hanging out with your friends and playing video games much, much moreif you do not have any homework or tests hanging over your head.  Don’t try to multitask by studying a little and having fun a little.  Focus 100% on studying and you will be much more efficient and effective.  Then you can focus 100% on enjoying yourself.
  6. Get big picture perspective from others on how studying affects things long term. If you talk to your classmates about studying, they will probably just enable you by telling you how little they care about studying as well.  Instead, gain valuable perspective and motivation by talking to those who are older than you.  Ask them what knowledge and skills they wish they had later in life.  What you will probably find is that they wish they had learned the stuff that is much more difficult to learn later on:  math and science concepts, foreign languages, better writing and communication skills, etc.  If you chat with people who are further along life’s journey, they may help you see the path you should take.
  7.  Remember that you are learning SKILLS.  The actual content of what you learn will not be nearly as important as your ability to learn.  Will you have to compute the area of a circle every day of your professional life?  No, but you willhave to do analytical problem solving.  Will you need to know the cultures and histories of different countries to make more money?  Probably not, but you willbenefit from being able to put yourself in the shoes of others.  Does it really matter whether you have a good essay on a novel you read in English?  Long term, it probably won’t, but it will be extremely valuable to know how to communicate effectively.  Whenever you feel that what you are learning is pointless, remember that as long as you are learning how to think, read, write, and problem solve, you are indeed preparing yourself for the future.
  8. Surround yourself with good people.  If your friends keep you from achieving your goals and want to bring you down to their level, maybe it’s time to find some new friends.  It is very hardto overcome the influence of friends who pressure you into not caring about things – they will make you feel like a nerd and an outcast if you care too much.  Keep your focus on your long-term goals and surround yourself with people who will help you become the best person you can be.   
  9. Use your boredom to find more efficient methods! Look at being bored as a good thing!  Use your laziness as motivation to find the most efficient method you can to learn what you need in the shortest time possible.  For example, if you can’t stand filling out a review sheet, make a study group with your friends and divide up the review sheet among yourselves and share the answers with one another.  If you hate learning flashcards, use a site like quizlet.com to make your own.  If you hate taking notes while you read, use a site like course-notes.org to supplement your understanding of the text.  Learning what works best for you will help you as you go on to college and professional life, because you will have much greater control over how you structure your studying.
  10. Learn GRIT. No matter what you do in life, there will be times when you need to do something that is not all that enjoyable to do.  The better that you can become mentally tough by having a great deal of personal grit,  the more likely you can overcome obstacles that stand in your way.  Grit is arguably one of the most important life skills that doing homework can teach you.

I hope you found these ideas helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Ten Resources to Help you Ace your School Tests

  1. Online Textbook Resources.  Virtually every major textbook has a companion website, complete with practice quizzes, chapter summaries, and multimedia learning tools.  Strangely, most teachers never have their students use these resources.  Use them yourself!   Try to find the exact companion website for your textbook through Google.  If that fails, try to find a textbook that covers the same topic as your class but which actually has a good companion website that you can use. Here are a couple of great examples:

https://www.mheonline.com/

http://www.thinkcentral.com/index.htm

  1. Khan Academy.  Khan is a wonderful website that has inspired much of what I have created and written.  Especially with Math and Science, Khan can give you in-depth instruction on topics that are giving you difficulty:

http://www.khanacademy.org/

  1. Youtube.   You will find tutorials on virtually any subject – when I taught high school, some of the “philosophy in 30 seconds” videos were remarkable in helping students quickly grasp a difficult concept.  Search for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/

  1. School Resources.  Your library may have access to fantastic subscription databases and study tools that you can use.  They probably paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for these, so put them to use!  If your school library doesn’t have them, check with your public library.  For an article detailing some of the changes that school libraries have made, please see here:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2012/04/01/high_school_libraries_more_than_just_a_place_to_study_these_days_1333162611/

  1. Past Tests.  Talk to your teacher about using past tests for practice, or try to borrow them from other students (without cheating of course!).  Using these will help you see how the teacher generally asks questions so that you will know how to focus your studying.
  2. Course-notes.org.  They have a great collection of subject notes, particularly for AP exams.  Great to use as a supplement to your textbook:

http://www.course-notes.org/

  1. Powerpoint Search.  There is no need for you to learn from a terrible powerpoint in class – there are PLENTY of powerpoints out there that you can use free of charge.  Simply go to google, type in the term for which you want a powerpoint, and then type in “ filetype:ppt ”.  When I taught high school, I often used this to save time in making lecture notes for my classes.
  2. College Help Sites for their students, (especially with writing).  Many top-notch colleges have compiled outstanding resources for their struggling students, and you can access them for yourself!  Here are two of my favorites:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/toc.shtml

  1. Ask students in same class at other schools to share what their teacher has done.  If you are in an Advanced Placement or Honors Course, reach out to your friends in other schools. Those schools may have teachers of the same course you are in is doing a much better job than your teacher.  See what resources, notes, and old tests you can check out from them.
  2. Purchase the teacher editions and AP resources yourself.  As long as you are not cheating by looking at a test bank that you know a teacher is using to generate test questions, I see nothing wrong with supplementing your learning by acquiring the textbook teacher editions and resources for yourself.  If several of your peers are in a similar situation, pool your money and purchase the book together.  You can find the teacher editions for most textbooks on amazon.com.  If you would like access to teacher resources for AP courses, here is where you can find them:

https://store.collegeboard.com/sto/enter.do

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with your friends!  Thanks, Brian Stewart

5 Steps to Your DREAM High School Experience, by Intern Olivia Turk

  1. Decide

Determine how you want to craft your high school experience by taking various classes and participating in different extracurriculars. Some may want to attend an Ivy League school, while others may want to attend their parent’s alma mater. For example, if you want to attend college on an athletic scholarship, begin thinking as early as freshman year about how to accomplish that goal. It could mean playing on the varsity athletic team for all four years or participating in both school and traveling state teams. Everyone’s path is different, but be sure to plan out the steps early so that you can reach your goals by the end of your high school experience.

 

  1. Reach

Expand your academic and extracurricular activities to be the best that you can be. Whether that means taking more than one math course during the school year or adding Advance Placement classes into your schedule, take the most rigorous course schedule that YOU can handle and be successful in. Just because your friends are taking AP US History, does not mean that that is the class that you have to excel in as well. Of course, if you have the academic ability or want to stretch yourself by taking higher level courses, intermediate and advanced courses are great, but always be prepared for the work load.

 

  1. Excitement

Be excited about what you are learning in your classes. By being excited, studying for tests and preparing class projects becomes so much easier. The simplest way to have enthusiasm is to pick a class schedule with courses that have curriculum topics that excite your personal interests. Two of the biggest mistakes that students make when choosing their course schedule are choosing classes that their friends have picked and choosing classes that they think look impressive to colleges. Instead, pick classes because you are excited to immerse yourself in the curriculum.

 

  1. Achieve

This is where students will spend most of their time: studying for tests, completing homework assignments and preparing for standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT. The most important part of being successful in high school, and even other areas of life, is to put in the time and effort to receive results. Of course, students need to remember to spend free time doing other activities, like going to football games or hanging out with friends, rather than studying all of the time, but the primary focus of high school is the educational component and how to make the most of the opportunities offered to you at your high school.

 

  1. Making a plan of action

The overall consensus that I’ve gained from students is to plan ahead. As early as eighth grade, map out a high school curriculum that interests you. Take basic courses during your freshman or sophomore years in order to take the rigorous courses that colleges look for when you become an upperclassman. By taking prerequisite courses, you will be prepared to take the step into the Honors, AP or IB world. Also, creating a plan for your “dream college” should be completed early so that when the time comes for applying to schools, you are not stressed out with deciding where you want to spend another four years of your education.

 

With these five simple steps, you will be on the road to a successful high school experience!

–Olivia Turk is currently a High School Senior at Dublin Jerome High School.

Writing Tutorial System

When I was in college, I remember talking to someone who went to Oxford University for his undergraduate degree. The way that he was taught really struck me as being so different from what I was used to in the American system, yet clearly more helpful.

At Oxford and Cambridge, students often go through a tutorial system or “supervision” system. Instead of having large classes with lots of students, they meet in groups of 1-3, have in-depth discussions on topics, and are required to write essays on a weekly basis. The former student to whom I spoke said that he was required to read an essay he had written out loud to his professor each week, and the professor would give him a wealth of constructive criticism.

Contrast this approach to writing education with what we do in the United States. Even at the best colleges and high schools, students usually have one major paper a semester. The feedback they receive is almost always based on the final product, rather than on the writing process. Students’ consumption of writing feedback is often limited to looking at their paper grade and then throwing the paper away.

If students are supposed to improve their writing skills, we should emulate the educational model of Oxford and Cambridge and provide high quality, in-depth feedback on a regular basis. If you are interested in working with one of our writing tutors to create a individualized program to vastly improve writing skills, please email us at tutor@bwseducationconsulting.com.

Post-Secondary Options for High School Students

Many ambitious students find that the courses they would like to take are simply not offered in their high schools. Fortunately, Ohio allows high school students to do post-secondary enrollment at a variety of institutions. Why is this beneficial?

1. Post-secondary coursework will easily transfer to college. You will have minimal worries about whether a school will accept a certain AP or IB score. If a school sees that you have completed a rigorous college course in a subject, such as calculus, physics or chemistry, they will likely give you credit for it.

2. It saves money. Post-secondary coursework is just like high school coursework in that it is free! If you can complete a year or two of college when it is free to do so, why not make it happen?

3. It will look good on your college applications. Taking rigorous college courses will demonstrate to universities that you are absolutely prepared for college work. You might also be able to get a letter of recommendation from a well-known professor.

4. It can be a great opportunity for home-schooled students to demonstrate college competency. The funding for most of the students comes directly from the school district of residence, but the funding for home-schooled students to do post-secondary coursework comes from the State of Ohio.

The public colleges that offer post-secondary coursework in central Ohio include:

Columbus State Community College
Marion Technical College
Ohio State University
Ohio University

The private schools in the greater central Ohio region that offer dual-enrollment programs include:

Cedarville University
Ohio Dominican University
Otterbein University
University of Dayton

With college costs rising higher than the rate of inflation, please take advantage of this program!