We are a month into my senior AP Physics 1 class. Therefore, our first test is coming up. It involves everything we've discussed so far - equilibrium, kinematics (including projectiles), and Newton's second law in one dimension.
Students have been solving AP level problems this whole time, both in class and on homework. They've been taking (timed) daily quizzes, involving both basic fundamentals questions and more involved problem solving. They've done lab activities, including data collection and analysis.
But with the test coming up, &#*@ just got real. I need simultaneously to build confidence, but also to create realistic expectations. These folks will be working under some time pressure, and without a safety net - no collaboration, no questions, no notes, no coming back later to finish a tough problem.
So I gave the quiz below in the first five minutes of class today, the class before the test. I had students trade and grade it (though I didn't collect it).
My top students got 7 out of 11 on this quiz. My not-top students, um, didn't get 7 out of 11. Everyone had deer-in-headlights faces. The subsequent discussion was about...
Building realistic expectations: "Folks, these aren't just memorize-and-spit back questions, eh? You've got to know your facts, but also how to apply them to completely new situations. This is what an AP exam is like! Better get used to it... the level of the exam comes from the College Board and their development committee, not from me. It is what it is, and is not changing. No whining. Deal."
...but also building confidence: "Once I explained each answer, it made perfect sense, right? I saw you nodding your heads, or smacking yourselves on the forehead 'cause you understood just fine in retrospect. You get this stuff. And, remember the grading scale: 65-70 percent is a 5; 50% or so is a 4. Most of you got the equivalent of 3s and 4s. You're expected to be brave, not perfect. Relax, show me what you know, and expect to figure the rest out when we do test corrections."