On May 9, more than 100 calculus students at Desert Vista, including myself, sat down to take the AP Calculus Exam. Because of the enormous number of students, we had to be split up alphabetically: the first half of the students took the exam in the computer labs, while the last half (which I was in) went into the library commons. For the first hour or so, the test ran smoothly.
Then, in the middle of the second multiple choice section, the fire alarm went off. Everybody looked up, hardly believing their ears, and then began groaning. What were we going to do? We had to get out of the building, but did not want to leave our tests. The proctors ushered us out. Everyone was confused and stressed.
“When the fire alarm went off, I literally jumped out of my seat because I was so concentrated on my test,” said Sue Han, junior at Desert Vista. “At first I thought I was dreaming because in no way should a fire alarm go off during an AP exam. It just wasn’t possible. I felt frustrated at the administration for setting off the fire alarm and feared that the test might get invalidated. I did not want to take the test again.”
Soon after we had exited the building, we were told to come back inside. There had not been a fire. Instead (although we did not know this at the time) a plumber at work in the A-building had accidentally set off the alarm. The proctors brought us in again, gave us back the time we had lost, and reassured us that our tests were not going to be invalidated. The teachers were also confident that our scores were safe. Desert Vista would simply inform College Board of the irregularity and let them deal with it.
When the school year ended and no news had come about the AP Calculus exams, I assumed that my test was safe. I was sure that if I would have to retake the exam, I would have been informed by then. I recycled my review packets without a second thought.
I was not planning to spend my summer relearning calculus.
A few weeks after school had ended, I was sitting in my living room, reading. My mom called to me from the other room, and told me that my AP Calculus test had been invalidated. I thought she was kidding. She was not. She began telling me about an email she had just received from a counselor about retaking the exam. I began sobbing.
For the first AP Calculus test, I had started preparing a month out. I had been enrolled in an AP Calculus class with teachers who held review sessions six days a week. The material was fresh. Now, I have only today to June 18 to prepare and I have not been in a calculus classroom for weeks.
Yet the oddest part of the invalidation is not the late notice, but the reasoning behind it. I was shocked to find that the fire alarm was not the problem. The College Board decided that the break in testing did not matter, but because of the further investigation the fire alarm required, they found instead that the seating arrangement in the library commons was not in accordance with their standards. Which means that I, along with 58 other students, suddenly have no other option but to retake the test.
“The reason for the invalidation just dumbfounded me,” said Han. “It is just so idiotic that they are invalidating the test just because the way people were seated. This whole situation is just wrong.”
I understand that the testing situation may not have been up to par, but I do not believe the new arrangements are either. All of us who have to retake the test are at a huge disadvantage. We were only given a little over two weeks to prepare for testing on a subject we have not been thinking about since school ended. Not to mention, some students are on vacation and cannot even be here for the retake day.
Desert Vista’s administration is doing its best to help the students who will be retaking the exam. We have been provided with the opportunity to check out textbooks and the counselors are trying to track down math teachers for review sessions. We are doing what we can, but there is no way to fully make up for what we have lost. Each student has just had to swallow the disappointment and begin anew.
On June 18, I will be at Desert Vista taking the AP Calculus Exam once again. I have checked out a textbook and cracked my prep book open. Frustrated? Of course. Beaten? Absolutely not.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Jessica Tueller is a junior at Desert Vista High School. She is interning this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.