Cumulatives: The Quasi Final

Claire Ireland & Tanya Ganesh & Theresa Fu, Senior Editor & Sports Director & Senior Editor

From the middle to end of April, every LFA student in an AP class has come into contact with the dreaded cumulative. Hefty in weighting but not so much as the final, shortly before the AP exam, and requiring relooking over an entire two semesters worth of material, the cumulative leaves one question: What’s the purpose? 

April can be a dreadful month and is the precursor to May’s first two weeks of rigorous AP testing. Intended to prepare students for the impending AP exam that will test year-round knowledge, cumulatives serve almost as the traditional test-taking “final” of a class– but a month in advance. With LFA offering over 20 AP courses from foreign language to the sciences, most students will encounter this form of testing sometime in their academic career. However, this time is also home to not only the various other AP classes that students take on, but the demand of extracurriculars and academic competitions that combat for attention. 

With the slew of responsibilities coming to head in this Spring season, it is difficult to maintain a balanced lifestyle and a school performance indicative of AP “readiness.” 

That’s not to say LFA students do not recognize the additional responsibility an AP class assigns, and LFA– whether it be through an advisor, college counselor, or school-instated restrictions based on grades– does pay attention to reminding students to not overload themselves.
But despite the benefits, the placement of cumulatives can be contrary to its effectiveness for arguably the most important exam– the AP. The barrage of constant testing and from multiple sources can decrease a student’s retention rate, the close timing to the AP exam can exacerbate anxiety, and a cumulative’s role in grading can lead to sudden burnout– all of which act as an obstructive to its ultimate goal of elevating a student’s confidence. On top of this, it can lead students to shirk other responsibilities of classes that aren’t AP’s just because they have to study for cumulatives and AP’s for a solid month straight. 

To combat this short-term goal of performing well on the cumulative in exchange for rashly brushing over the course material under the pressure of stress, decreasing the cumulative’s weightage in the overall class grade can maintain the exam-simulating environment while refraining from taking a toll on students. Or it could be entirely grade-optional, where it’s meant to help the students and not to hurt their grade. 

Apart from the testing itself, teachers should remain conscious that though teaching unit after unit is critical and allowing a student to fully comprehend individual concepts is necessary, it is just as important to allot time for a student to apply those skills holistically– as the AP exam likes to enforce. Part of preparing for a cumulative is preparing how to weave together course material that is previously taught throughout the year in segments. Cumulatives should not act as a decisive grading factor if the style of the test is still foreign to its taker.

When teachers enable students to effectively space out their time, and students approach testing with the intent to understand, practice, and retain rather than simply getting that A, it will ultimately promote stronger longterm AP results and enjoyment.