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AP Computer Science Review Sessions

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For those of you who don't know, my high school is sponsored by a non-profit organization designed to bolster the number of STEM qualified high school students. It does this by working to increase passing scores of students in AP Math, Science, and English courses. Some of the perks of this grant include Saturday review sessions with AP teachers from around the country, free pizza at these review sessions, and $100 for every passing score on AP exams under the above categories. Since the number of AP Computer Science courses in my state are so few (only 5-6 schools were there), the first two of the sessions were at a high school in a neighboring county, and the last one will be at my school. So far, I've been to the first two sessions. The speakers at these sessions included a teacher at Thomas Jefferson governor's school in Alexandria, VA (which is about an hour and a half from my school) who was an AP grader for 10 years; and Leon Schram, one of the guys who created the AP Computer Science Exam who lives in Texas.

The first Saturday with the guy from TJ was fairly interesting. We hit hard on OOP for the first session, talking about class design (this session was in mid-February), GridWorld for the 2nd and 3rd sessions, and rounding out with the easiest AP FRQ in the world. Suffice to say, the three (out of ten) students from my class who attended the session were a quantum leap ahead of everyone else, as we had long since finished OOP by this date, while none of the other students had seen OOP. This is mostly due to our small class combined with having laptops issued by our county, so we can have programming assignments for homework while most of the other students don't. As the presenter came around to check on our progress during the sessions when we were writing code, he was shocked at how tight our code (specifically my code) was.

After I finished two sessions worth of GridWorld in one session, he came over to look at my code, and noticed that I declared an anonymous array as a method parameter. Once specific question was if I had seen an ArrayList before, with him referring to generics as “angle brackets.” I guess this is a valid question for most high school students, as they probably aren’t familiar with the term generics. However, it just shocked me that an AP grader wouldn’t refer to generics using the formal term. Overall, though, I felt this session was extremely helpful for the experience with GridWorld, though the two points extra credit on my marking period grade and having the first week’s worth of homework done when we started GridWorld in class.

The second Saturday review with Leon Schram was very different than the first one with the guy from TJ. In terms of material covered, I didn’t really learn anything new; unlike the last session when I covered GridWorld. However, Schram was a lot more technical in his responses, referring to (and covering the basics of) Generics as “generics,” and not “those things with angle brackets.” Like at the last session, the three of us from my school who attended the review were still a quantum leap ahead of everyone else (though the gap had closed just a little bit), and Schram recognized it. During an intermission, he approached us and asked if we wanted to see anything specific covered. Of course, none of us had any specific requests. Then during the second session, he said to us something to the effect of, “We’re going at this pace so that everyone can keep up. I know that for some of you, like this guy right here (in reference to me), I’m going at a slugs pace.” In terms of the teaching style, Schram lectured and used a case study he wrote to teach us rather than having us write code, while the guy from TJ on the first Saturday had us coding almost the whole time. To this effect, Schram was definitely more dynamic than the guy from TJ.

While this has definitely been an ego trip for me, it has also illustrated the advantage of issuing students laptop computers. As for most (if not all) other AP Computer Science classes under the grant do not get homework, as the students do not have the means to do it at home. My class, however, has finished new AP material about 2 months early, due mostly to having school issued laptops so we can do programming assignments at home.

My next and last AP CS Saturday review also falls with the other AP math sessions at my high school, so my day will be split between AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics, and AP Computer Science. I’ll probably end up attending only one session for AP CS, as Calculus is most important for me to attend. I’ll post again on how the third AP CS session goes.

2 Comments On This Entry

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31 March 2010 - 09:59 PM
Ha, Mr. Schram is the author of Exposure Java, which the first few chapters were my introduction to programming -- my girlfriend swears by his book (her AP class used his book), and he actually teaches at a school a couple miles from my apartment in Dallas. He's got a very unique way of presenting material, and it's often very entertaining. I hope you were able to get a lot out of those sessions - let us know how you do, hopefully you have many 5's in your future.


01 April 2010 - 05:47 PM
I agree with you there. The first guy from TJ was kind of boring, though he did present the material well. Mr. Schram really taught the material in a student-friendly way, yet at a relatively fast pace, as we finished all 4 sessions an hour early. Plus, he filled half the time with stories from his days as a Green Beret. While material-wise I didn't get a ton out of the sessions, it was really interesting to listen to one of the AP CS founders present. I'll definitely post after the AP exam about how I did.


I hope you were able to get a lot out of those sessions - let us know how you do, hopefully you have many 5's in your future.

Thanks! :)
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