Saturday Sessions and Mock Exams: A Student Perspective

Are Saturday Sessions and Mock Exams Really Beneficial For AP Students?

Saturday Sessions and Mock Exams: A Student Perspective

Leo Laguerre, Editor-in-Chief

At Ludlow High School, many AP courses are offered to students. These rigorous courses allow students to experience a college-level course, and if they pass their class’s AP exam, they may receive college credit. 


One of the requirements for some of these classes is that students must attend Saturday sessions and mock exams that are scheduled throughout the year. These sessions are scheduled in the hopes of improving students’ chances of passing their AP exams by teaching and reinforcing course material with different instructors. As an AP student, I’ve found Saturday sessions to be ineffective; however, I’ve found mock exams to be successful at preparing students for their AP exams.  


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday sessions were an in-person event held at a nearby school with students from other districts. Since COVID-19 hit, all Saturday sessions have been virtual, with some being broken up into 90 minute intervals throughout the week and others being nearly four hours long on Saturday morning. 


After virtual learning, many students can agree that trying to focus on a virtual meeting for that long is hard, and these sessions are no different. For many, it is extremely difficult to stay focused on the material being covered when on a video call. The issues with paying attention are furthered by the fact that many students are tired after waking up early on a Saturday morning after a long week of school. 


The material covered in these virtual sessions is often hard to follow as well. In school, students build a foundation on a subject and slowly build on it to understand complex concepts; this is frequently seen in STEM classes such as Calculus and Biology, and is essential to understanding the more difficult concepts featured in the AP curriculum. 


During Saturday sessions, the topics presented often jump around to units that students have not yet covered in school. This makes these lessons hard to follow, as students are unfamiliar with the subject’s fundamentals and have a hard time grasping new concepts when being taught online from an unfamiliar teacher. Additionally, some of these lessons can become rushed if there are time restraints.


The only exceptions are the Saturday sessions that give tips and tricks about how to take the exam; these are the only Saturday sessions that I took value from as they provided new and useful advice about the AP exams. That being said, these sessions still suffer from the flaws and challenges that come from virtual lessons. 


While Saturday sessions have their faults, mock exams are the most beneficial to AP students due to the hands-on aspect. Despite requiring students to wake up early, mock exams are useful in measuring what students have learned, what they have yet to learn, and their problem areas. They indicate to teachers what their students have mastered and which topics have to be revisited. 


Additionally, mock exams help students to get acquainted with a test-taking environment similar to that of the AP exams. Students learn how to budget their time and can practice various test-taking techniques they’ve learned throughout class.


A mock exam lasting multiple hours is the only way to truly simulate what AP students will go through on the day of their tests and relieve some of their anxiety by making them better prepared. Although in-class tests can simulate some of the challenges students will experience, time constraints and formatting prevent them from properly simulating an AP exam. 


Mock exams manage to simulate an actual AP exam without stressing students out, because they  are not included in students’ grades, and are solely for practice. Many AP teachers offer bonus points depending on how well students perform on the mock exam, which encourages students to do well. Unlike in-school exams, mock exams are a stress-free way to analyze students’ abilities and gauge which concepts or strategies need practice. 


Despite their similar intentions, Saturday sessions tend to fall flat in comparison to mock exams due to their lack of hands-on practice. Even though waking up early on Saturday is an inconvenience, mock exams are much more worth it — for both students and teachers.