There are six education systems that we looked at in this year’s School Choice Guide. To start us off here is the Advanced Placement Courses and SAT/PSAT and what The Ju Family thinks about the system of choice.
The Advanced Placement (AP) program and the SAT Reasoning Test (commonly known as the SAT) are curricula and exams administrated by the College Board, an educational association based in the US.
Many universities and colleges award credit for the standardized courses that make up the AP program. Getting a head start on their college education, allows students to take higher level courses, pursue a double major, or study abroad, as well as potentially save significantly on third-level tuition fees.
The SAT or SAT Reasoning Test is an internationally-recognized university admission exam. Most students take the SAT in their junior or senior year of high school. The majority of US universities base their selections to varying degrees on SAT scores.
There is also the PSAT (or Preliminary SAT), which is often called the “practice SAT.” It is taken by Grade 10 and 11 students to give an idea of how they are likely to do on the SAT.
Who does it target?
AP courses and the SAT are generally taken by Grade 11-12 students (roughly 15-18 years old).
How is it applied?
The College Board offers 34 AP subjects. Some of the most popular include AP US History, AP English Literature, and AP Calculus AB. International schools in Beijing vary widely in the number of AP subjects they offer.
AP students receive two grades: one for AP coursework and another for the AP exam. AP tests are taken in May and graded on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being highest). The multiple choice sections are scored by a computer, while the free response and essay components are graded by AP “readers.” Though it varies from institution to institution, most universities require that students obtain a minimum grade of 3 or 4 to qualify for college credit.
The SAT test lasts over three hours and is divided into three sections: critical reading, writing, and mathematics. Each section is made up of multiple choice questions, but the writing portion also requires students to compose a short essay. As of 2005, the SAT has a maximum possible score of 2,400 (3 x 800). The tests are graded by the College Board, but students also have access to third party “test verification services” for added security.
Why should parents consider it?
High achievers are usually recommended for the program by their teachers. Because AP classes are so rigorous, students should only take as many as they can manage. They are a way for them to challenge themselves and show prospective colleges that they are serious about academics. As for the SAT, it is usually a good idea for students who are interested in attending university in the US.
How well does this educational system prepare students for the real world?
For decades, there has been heated debate about issues of cultural and socioeconomic bias in the SAT test. Studies found that white and wealthy applicants tended to score higher than their poorer “ethnic” counterparts. The College Board redesigned the SAT in 2005 in response, but a growing number of colleges have joined the “SAT optional movement” by removing SAT scores from their admission requirements.
Nevertheless, most universities in the US still look at SAT scores and AP courses as part of the selection process. Outside the US, universities in over 60 countries recognize AP exam scores for admission or college credit. Some universities also consider the SAT score to assess students who did not complete the IB Diploma Programme.
The Ju Family (China)
Joyce Ju is mother to 18-year-old Kevin, a student at St. Paul American School (SPAS). Joyce is self-employed.
Why did you choose the AP/SAT route?
Joyce: I thought for a long time and researched carefully before choosing a school. St. Paul American School’s AP courses are synchronized with the American education system. For non-native English speakers, the school also offers ESL, SAT, and TOEFL courses to prepare students for placement at prominent American universities.
What are the benefits of this curriculum?
The school has encouraged Kevin to be more independent; for example, he handled his university applications by himself. He wouldn’t let me step in and help. Of course, as a parent I can never totally let go, but the school has really built up his ability to stand on his own feet.
What are the drawbacks of this curriculum?
No curriculum is suitable for every student. It’s important to look carefully at the implementation of the system. The English abilities of students from China are uneven and therefore the school can’t introduce full AP courses to students right away. Even the reading materials don’t really match those of American students in the same grades.
Find your downloadable version of guide here.
The next system will be the Chinese National Curriculum and what the Liu-Johnson Family thinks about it.
Come find out which schools offer this curriculum at the 2014 beijingkids and JingKids Spring School Choice Fair, sponsored by RGF AIR Purifiers at the Hilton Beijing on March 1 and 2.
Photo by Ken