The Afternoon Class Advantage

Blake Pedersen

“Hey what was on the AP Lang test?” one student asked. Wednesday at 11:01 AM, some juniors discussed the latest test during A lunch.

  These casual exchanges of information occur during lunch every test day. For students with a class later in the day, these questions ease anxiety about future assessments. Although the questions may seem like harmless lunchtime chatter, these conversations offer students who have not yet taken the same test an unfair advantage.

  One junior admits students with a class later in the day have the upper hand over those with the same class earlier. In math class. The junior remembers getting interrogated by his friends almost every day about questions on the test, homework, and quizzes. “My friends would go into the test knowing what some test question answers were,” he said.

  The problem extends beyond students’ education and into their social lives as well. The student admitted that he often told his friends test content so they would not loathe him. Students should not feel pressured into telling their friends test answers. By asking friends to reveal test or quiz content, students with classes after lunch can exploit their advantage by receiving answers to the test they have not seen.  

  When students distribute test or quiz information to others, their own grade may look less impressive. If a student shares information about a test, students with classes later in the day have a better chance for success. “I feel pressured to give out information,” a junior stated. Students often feel obligated to share information with their friends. “I think my friends will think I am a jerk if I do not tell them the information.” another junior said. Students with the class earlier in the day give their peers an unfair advantage, making their own grade appear less impressive.

  To highlight the potential advantages that certain students have, the West Ottawan collected quiz scores between hours from teachers around the school. Instructor Brian VanZanten’s second hour chemistry class Quiz B score average was 69.5 percent, as compared to fifth hours 78.9 percent. Looking at scores from last year, Instructor Ken Strobel’s AP English Language vocabulary test yielded similar results: second hour’s class average for Vocab Test was 21.3 out of 25, while fifth hour’s was 22.5 out of 25.

Although other factors during the day could influence these results, the transferring of information between hours likely impacts the test scores. AP Statistics Instructor Heidi Libner noted the trend of rising quiz scores between hours as potential indicators of the afternoon class advantage.

  Some West Ottawa teachers are cognizant of the dilemma and they try to level the academic playing field. Instructor Teresa Mccrumb utilizes a system to prevent students from transferring information between hours. In her AP classes, the students have free response questions for every test. Instead of maintaining the same free response questions (FRQ) every hour, McCrumb mixes them up between classes. “I sometimes select different FRQ questions for my students to have throughout the day,” she said. “For example, one class in the morning will have a different FRQ question to answer than the class in the afternoon.” Going the extra mile to eliminate any possibility of unfairness provides each student with an equal opportunity to succeed.

  On Wednesday at 11:31 am, the group of juniors leave A lunch armed with an unfair advantage. Sure, they may know it is immoral, but the motivation to achieve good grades overshadows the understanding of right and wrong.

  Academic dishonesty often occurs because of students’ desire for quality grades. Students feel the need to take advantage of every opportunity they have to succeed on tests and quizzes, even at the sacrifice of ethics. Since test information can be transferred between times of the day, students with a class in the afternoon have an advantage over students who have the class earlier.