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Tutors Help Students Prepare for AP

Advanced Placement, or AP, tests in local schools are scheduled for May 2-13.

These tests, which represent work done by 11th- and 12th-grade students in college-level classes and can be redeemed for credit at many universities, pose a particular challenge to many students, said Annette Riffle, director of tutoring programs for Kaplan Learning Centers. "A lot of students have difficulty with the amount of content required on these tests," she said. "For a lot of students, they're used to semester finals" but not to being tested on all the content covered in a year or longer, she said.

While self-directed study can help some students cover the needed materials, others may benefit from tutoring with someone who had a strong grasp of the subject area and teaching, Riffle said. "What a private tutor can help students with is focusing their study ... a good tutor can build on the student's strengths and hone in on their weaknesses," she said.

THE MOST COMMON AP subjects that students seek tutoring on are the maths and sciences, said Karen Helm, director of the Fairfax Huntington Learning Center. "This is a different caliber of kids," she said. They're very aware of how they learn and what their trouble spots are." But even such good students, Helm said, can be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information required by an AP exam.

Most tutors who work with AP students at Huntington Learning Centers are current or retired Fairfax County teachers, Helm said. However, she also employs an engineer and an accountant. Because they use calculus in their daily work lives, they can tie calculus problems for the AP tests to real-life examples, Helm said. "Getting a good tutor is a matter of finding someone who not just knows the subject, but will be able to explain it," she said.

A list of tutors compiled by the Fairfax County Public Schools parent Resource Center is available online at http://www.fcps.edu/DSSSE/prc/TutorList.pdf.

IN LOUDOUN COUNTY, parents who are looking for AP tutors can contact the Parent Resource Center (PRC). The PRC maintains a database of teachers who also work as tutors to students at all levels, said PRC Educator Allyson Pate. Three teachers are specifically listed as being willing to tutor at the AP level, two for calculus and one for English. In addition, the PRC maintains a list of tutors from outside the school system whose information may be shared with parents upon request.

Many students choose options other than private tutoring. These may include using study guide books or informal study groups organized by teachers or other students. In Fairfax County, National Honor Society students often offer tutoring to other students, said Bernadette Glaze, a specialist for advanced academic programs in Fairfax County Schools.

Tutoring, Kaplan's Riffle said, can only be a partial solution. "Nobody can do the reading for you," she said. To help, Riffle recommends parents make sure students set aside at least 20 minutes a night to review material for AP exams.