Students take part in free 'Super Saturday' to prepare for AP exams
Students take part in free 'Super Saturday' to prepare for AP exams
Posted on 03/27/2017
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Dr. Megan Webster leads a Super Saturday session

AP exams provide students and their families with a valuable opportunity: potentially earn college credit by spending about $100 instead of spending several times that amount to earn the credit through a class in college.

With passing rates of AP exams hovering around 20 percent, however, earning college credit isn’t easy. Students truly have to not only know the material on an exam, but demonstrate a mastery of that knowledge. To help prepare students for the difficult exams, Northwest ISD offers “Super Saturday” sessions where they can spend part of their weekend learning the best tactics and tricks for specific tests.

On Saturday, March 25, more than 100 district students took part in the Super Saturday sessions for AP Human Geography and AP Environmental Science exams. Through these sessions, guest speakers offered guidance regarding each exam’s format and reviewed content from earlier in the year.

Dr. Megan Webster, a geography teacher at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, annually scores hundreds of AP exams as an official grader. As the guest speaker who led Super Saturday’s AP Human Geography session, Dr. Webster emphasized to students that high expectations are set for those who take AP exams, and demonstrating high-level thinking is a requirement.

“Knowing the information is the most important aspect, but it’s also about organizing your thoughts, thinking through what the question is asking and breaking it down,” she said. “Especially with freshman students – but also any AP course – it’s important to review the information from earlier in the year to recall what you learned and be ready for anything that could appear on the test.”

To prepare students for the difficulty of essay-answer questions, Dr. Webster walked through several possible tactics for taking an AP exam. Brainstorming answers can help students come up with ideas until they find their best response for a prompt, for instance, and outlining an essay can help ensure answers are coherent, specific and concise.

“Knowing the information is the most important aspect, but it's also about organizing your thoughts, thinking through what the question is asking and breaking it down.”

Because the AP Human Geography exam is the first opportunity to earn college credit for most students, Northwest ISD’s curriculum and instruction staff felt having a strong start would prove beneficial as students advance through high-level courses. With that view in mind, curriculum staff came up with Super Saturday as a way to get students on the right path for their time in both high school and college.

Audra Rowell, Northwest ISD’s advanced academics coordinator and Super Saturday co-creator, said the curriculum staff works with guest speakers to ensure activities take place to make the review sessions enjoyable.

“We started this last year because we know how important it is to have the right mentality going into an AP exam,” she said. “We’re planning on expanding the program each year to give support to the courses that may need it. Only AP Human Geography was a session last year, and this year we added AP Environmental Sciences; next year, we’ll add a course for juniors, then the following year we’ll look at adding a course for seniors.”

Part of the benefit of the event’s setup, Mrs. Rowell added, is that it gives students a different perspective.

“Our teachers like having their students hear what they’ve learned in class from someone else, because adds another viewpoint,” she said. “They may teach it in a different manner, or students may just hear it as an affirmation of what they’ve already learned, because now they’re hearing it from someone who grades AP exam essays.”

Students take part in a Super Saturday activity

Super Saturday participation has already proven successful for students. During the 2015-16 school year, 62 percent of students who attended the AP Human Geography session earned a passing score on the corresponding exam, a notable margin above the 54 percent of students who didn’t attend the session.

Students who attended last year’s Super Saturday session also provided positive feedback when responding to a questionnaire, with responses calling the event a “good refresher” and a way to “get an edge when taking the AP test.”

Cloey Seltzer, an Eaton High School freshman in Karri McGovern’s AP Human Geography class who attended this year’s session, said she’s a little nervous about her first AP exam but hopes Super Saturday will prepare her to do well.

“I’m here to learn what the experience is like, so hopefully it will help me pass the test,” she said. “We’re going to take a mock exam in class soon, but I know there’s going to be a lot of information from the whole year, so getting done in the time limit is important.”

Jamison Deffner, a Northwest High School freshman in Sarah Golding’s AP Human Geography class, agreed that the event provided a good refresher about what to expect and what the experience of taking an AP exam will be like.

“It’s making it so you’re not psyching yourself out about the AP test,” he said. “It’s like having tutoring in a group setting that really helps. It helped hearing about the importance of [essay questions] and answering them thoroughly.”

For more information on Northwest ISD’s college preparedness offerings and view the AP exam schedule, visit