As students come into the room to take their work, energy, & power test, I direct them to look at the screen at the front of the classroom. The screen is displaying their new seats for today, and I've created the new seating chart ahead of time using a random seating chart generator. I use this generator so that I'm not biased in where students are placed and to keep students from relying on their neighbor for answers (also known as cheating).
Once students are seated in their new seats, I clearly go through my rules for tests taken in the classroom, which they were given in print at the start of the year. I emphasize that students should not use any outside resources, are only allowed the approved materials (including only calculators that are approved by the College Board), must turn all electronic devices off, and cannot leave the room for any reason at any time. I also inform students that per our school handbook, failure to meet these requirements will result in a zero on the exam and a disciplinary referral.
Before I pass out the energy unit exam, equation sheet, and a blank piece of scratch paper, I give the students one more minute to organize themselves and get comfortable.
After completing a unit on work and energy that included topics such as elastic energy, conservation of energy, and power (HS-PS3-1), students are ready to demonstrate their understanding of these concepts. The goal of this test is two-fold. Not only are students demonstrating the content knowledge, but they are also able to experience a testing situation similar to an AP Physics 1 Exam.
Much like the AP exam, the multiple choice questions come first on my exam and are followed by short answer questions. Organizing the test this way allows students to better calculate how much time they can spend on the free response questions once they have completed the multiple choice questions. I've also purposely picked these questions to evaluate how well my students can use words and equations (SP5) to describe an object's work, energy, and power.
Beyond preparing them for the AP Physics 1 exam, I want to make sure my students have a clear understanding of the topics we've covered in this unit. Students should be able to calculate work and relate work to energy. They must also conceptually understand gravitational kinetic energy, potential energy, and elastic kinetic energy, while keeping in mind the law of conservation of energy. Applying this knowledge, students need to calculate energy transformations within a pendulum and spring, before calculating the work, energy, and power in vertical and horizontal scenarios.
The time allowed for the test is strictly enforced since the number of questions is based on the number of AP questions a student will have to answer (in that same amount of time) on the AP Physics 1 exam. Also like the actual exam, students are allowed to write on my tests so that they can get into the habit of making notes and marks in small spaces.
When students finish their test they need to bring the test and the equation sheet to the front of the room. I collect everything to ensure that students aren't writing any notes down to share with other classes. Even after they have finished, I do not allow students access to their bags, electronics, or the restroom. The point of this rigidity is to make sure that each student has a fair opportunity to test in the same quiet conditions.
It is always my goal to grade tests and post grades within 24 hours. Because we move at such a fast pace in this AP course, I want my students to have a clear understanding of how they are doing before we move onward to a new unit.
Our science department policy is that a test cannot be returned for students to keep, so they must request a time to meet with me before or after school if they'd like to see and review their exam. This one-on-one time is a nice opportunity to discuss mistakes, trends that I noticed on their exam, and celebrate their success of finishing an AP Physics 1 exam!
Testing also creates a great opportunity for me to reach out to parents. As I'm grading the exams I put aside any exams that earned an A. I contact the guardians of these students so that they know how proud I am of their awesome efforts. I also put aside any exams that earned an F, as it's important that parents be notified of sub-par progress in the course. It takes me only a few minutes to send out an email, as I already have some form letters prepared for these situations. Finally, any students that did much better or much worse than their "individual normal" also gets noted. I contact these parents to either congratulate an improved effort or voice my concerns.
The average of this test was an 84.29%, which tells me that the students mastered the concepts of work, energy, and power. If the average had been lower than 80%, I would have gone back over the fundamental concepts and offered a retest, since it is crucial that students master this content. Not only does the content make up a significant portion of the AP Physics 1 exam, but it's the foundation of every other concept covered in this course. Since my students did so well, I don't need to worry about going back and we can move forward into linear momentum.
Question 7 seemed to be a good indicator of how students did overall. This first student did an excellent job on question 7 (and all of the questions, really), scoring nearly 100% on the exam. This second example indicates that the student was really struggling with work and energy concepts, as her answers to question 7 (and her overall test grade) was not good.