Each May, high school students in advanced placement courses spend about two weeks testing in an effort to get college credit.
According to the nonprofit organization The College Board, the highest score a student can make on an AP exam is a five. If a student scores at least a three on at least three exams, he or she is named an AP Scholar.
Pine Tree High School has 27, the most among Longview-area high schools.
Principal Cindy Gabehart said the high number of AP Scholars at her school is a result of commitment to academic excellence.
“Everything’s not perfect, but I do believe we think (commitment to academic excellence) is important,” she said. “We do work hard to try to choose the best teachers, and class is the most engaging it can be.”
One of those scholars, senior Ainsley Daugbjerg, said she prepared for her AP tests in a similar way to the SAT/ACT by buying preparation workbooks with practice tests.
“I feel that it prepares you for college better in a way if you’re taking more rigorous classes,” she said. “Then when you’re thrown into the college atmosphere and it’s a totally different world, your classes don’t seem as hard, but they still are. You’re on a better playing field with other students taking AP classes.”
The classroom environment for AP students is similar to a college class, Ainsley said. The time in the classroom is more communal where students learn off each other and have discussions. Most studying is done individually outside of class.
Sterling Beakley, another senior AP Scholar, said his peers help with the classes and preparing for the test, along with his teachers.
“The best thing your teachers do is to inspire you and get you interested in learning the topic,” he said. “That way, you pick up stuff on your own, and you have a more realistic understanding of what’s going on in the course.”
Senior Counselor Bill Irvine said Pine Tree offers 18 AP courses to students in varied subjects so there is something for all interests.
Luke Oxsheer, another senior AP Scholar, said he wanted to take the AP route so he could take more rigorous courses to prepare him for college.
“I think the best thing that some of my teachers did last year was to pull last year’s practice questions from the AP test,” he said. “I think that’s kind of the best way to get us exposed to what the actual test is going to look like.”
Gabehart said AP students spend time juggling the extra course load and all their other school activities. To help students with balance, she said AP teachers are willing to work with students before and after school.
“You’re under all this pressure at school but it is still while you’re in an environment of people who will help you,” she said. “You still have to be the one who learns it all but at college it may be a little more difficult. You’re not going to have quite the army of supporters you have here.”