Rugger   Saturday, October 18, 2003, 06:28 GMT
Jaun, I'm a Victorian and sadly am among a minority of rugby union fans in this state full of AFL fanatics. My dad is a cricket/rugby player and fan, so when all the other kids were supporting their AFL team, I was into watching rugger with my dad. However, I'm not so much into rugby league, which is the footy code in NSW.

I tend to find that lots of Aussie girls/women are just as much into their sports as the men. You only have to see the little old grannies in the front row at AFL matches, wearing their footy team's scarf and guernsey and screaming on the top of their lungs, to know that in Australia nearly everyone (male and female) is passionate about some sport or other.
Juan   Saturday, October 18, 2003, 10:14 GMT
How old is everybody in here...I'm 22 by the way and it seems that the majority of people posting on these forums are between 15 and 17.
A.S.C.M.   Saturday, October 18, 2003, 20:09 GMT
To Rugger:

The code red drill is a product of the bouts of paranoia following the Columbine High School shootings and 11 Sep 2001. As for the seriousness of the drill, different teachers treat it differently. Last year, my History teacher continued the lesson during the drill and told us to put on a pretence at the last minute, i.e. before our door was knocked. This year, my Literature teacher treated the drill much more seriously.
mjd   Saturday, October 18, 2003, 21:31 GMT
I'm 23.
A.S.C.M.   Saturday, October 18, 2003, 22:08 GMT
To Rugger:

Yet another fact of American school life is flexibility. Unlike students in the UK and Australia, American pupils don't have to follow rigid course/exam requirements in order to graduate from sec. school and be admitted into university. Instead, one is allowed to formulate his/her own "education plan" and pray that the universities approve of it.

Some students rely solely on an extremely high SAT score (e.g. 1550/1600) or intense involvement in a multitude of extracurricular activities (e.g. 200 hours of community service + community orchestra + Speech and Debate + Drama) to be admitted into a university.

Other students, including myself and most others at my school, plunge headlong into an intense programme of AP courses and exams, which bear a resemblence, albeit very slight, to AS/A-levels in the UK. It is widely-known that American secondary education is easy and relaxed compared to its equivalents in other countries. However, at my particular school, the belief in the necessity of taking several AP courses and exams has become so deeply rooted in our minds that most of us work and study into the wee hours of the morning. A particularly demanding course at Lynbrook is AP US History, for which we have to do around 1.5 to 4 hours of homework and studying every day.

There is a yawning chasm between AP and regular courses in the US. One can get a decent grade (A or B) in regular courses provided that one does all the work assigned to him/her. In AP courses, one has to prove that one has mastered the details of the subject, for instance, by writing an essay in 30 minutes or coming up with a short class presentation in 15 minutes.

A final note: AP students sit for standardised AP exams in May and we also sit for final exams (given by our teachers) in December and June. However, in line with the American system of education, assessment is continuous: with tests of lesser importance every two weeks or so.

Enough for now. I need to work on my AP US History homework and prepare for the Mid-Semester Exams!
Rugger   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 00:02 GMT
Thanks for the information A.S.C.M.

Juan, I'm 23 years old.
A.S.C.M.   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 01:00 GMT
Oh, and A-level students in the UK generally know what topics they're going to write essays for on standardised exams whereas AP students in the US may be asked to write an essay on anything within the sphere of the subject matter. According to my AP Biology, teacher, most pupils who sit for the AP Bio standardised exam are faced with at least one topic of which they have absolutely no idea but on which they must write an essay. Still, AP students write less essays than A-level students.

These facts of American education are coming to me as I prepare for my Mid-Semester Exams.
Rugger   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 01:30 GMT
My VCE mid semester and end of year biology exams consisted of part multiple choice questions, part genetic problems, and part short answer questions on all the biology topics studied for the year. VCE also involved CATs (Common assesment tasks) for every subject, and in the case of VCE biology this included essays/research projects on key topics (eg. Cloning, invitro fertilisation, etc.). The CATs for my two VCE maths subjects were hardest because it involved solving a difficulat maths problem, talking to your teacher about your stratergy and letting them see your draft, then typing it up and handing it in at the end of one week. The next day you had to sit a test with similar maths problems, basically to test the skills you used in solving your CAT question. I also had my mid semester and end of year (external) exams for the two maths subjects. All in all, VCE was one very stressful year!
A.S.C.M.   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 07:09 GMT
I know that in British A-levels, some essays and projects done as homework count as part of the qualifications marked by national awarding bodies. From what you mentioned, I suppose that this is also true in Australia. However, there is no such standardised out-of-school assessment in the US.

In American AP courses, mid-semester and semester final exams are created and marked by the teachers. Only the national AP exams in May are standardised- these generally include multiple choice and essay questions though there are exceptions to this format, e.g. the AP French Exam includes multiple-choice for reading comprehension, fill-in-the-blank for grammar questions, an oral narrative, an oral spontaneous response, and an essay.
Ryan   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 08:07 GMT
Taking AP Exams has absolutely no bearing on whether one is accepted into a prestigious university or not. The exams only exist so one can "test out" of certain university subjects. This is completely different from the intent of British A-Level exams, which are basically required to enter university.

On the other hand, taking an AP class and doing well in it has a lot of bearing on what university one can attend. I took several AP classes in high school but refused to take an AP exam because I knew that for the university I was attending, I would have to take 120 credits AP or no AP, and so I was basically just wasting my money if I took the AP Exams. Money well saved and spent later on beer, I must add.
A.S.C.M.   Sunday, October 19, 2003, 17:16 GMT
Of course, AP exams and courses have not yet achieved the compulsory nature of British A-levels and on a nationwide scale, relatively few students take APs compared to the great number of students who get admitted to universities. However, there's a very prevalent though erroneous "AP mentality" in my school. One of my classmates wrote the following in a satirical essay published in my school newspaper: "Lynbrook High School: The place where people taking less than three APs are questioned and their predetermined fate is to be living on the cold streets of San Francisco, playing the harmonica with their hat on the ground, hoping for a dollar bill to drop in."

Well, I must admit that Lynbrook doesn't represent the typical American high school. For one thing, a majority (around 65%) of the students are Asian and a minority are White (around 30%). Latinos and Africans? You actually have to search around the whole campus to find a handful.
Maria   Monday, October 20, 2003, 19:09 GMT
A Levels are very testing...and strenuous..particularly if you pick the 'harder' subjects...There are some subjects like sociology where really it's just a common sense exam! They'll ask questions like "Look at these two people's conversations and discuss why the doctor believes that passive smoking can shorten lives". The A-level is spilt up into 6 modules, each assessed by an externally marked paper which used to last 1hr 15 mins but I've been told it's been shortened to an hour this year (This depends on the exam board). Along with the exams a piece of coursework has to be submitted, usually marked by the teacher, and a few are sent off to be checked so that the marking is roughly correct. To achieve an 'A' you need to get 80% and over on exams and coursework. Anything below 40% is recorded as a 'U' (Fail).
I don't know if this is true in other countries, but in Britain there's a culture where some of the media seem hell bent on slagging students off for their grades, saying that because pass rates for both GCSEs and A-levels are rising year after year this seems to suggest that standards are slipping. Usually the people who write such rubbish are childless singles over 35. This supposed 'dumbing down' reached such a level, that in 2001 or 2002 some exam boards actually down graded pupil's coursework to a U so that their final grade was much lower than it would otherwise had been. They had to regrade around 2000 people's A-Levels and sack the chief examiner.
A.S.C.M.   Monday, October 20, 2003, 22:57 GMT
The American AP exams are held once each year. They consist of a single externally-marked paper that lasts around 3 hours. Internally-marked exams are much more common and we do not have to submit any coursework to be externally marked.
Fly   Monday, October 20, 2003, 22:59 GMT
I am 23 as well, just graduated from college.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 06:09 GMT
True cramming for the AP US History mid-semester exam: I just concluded 6 hours of flipping through the textbook, revising notes, and writing practice essays. The document-based question is the most nerve-wracking: we have to write an essay on some "to what degree and to what extent" question and incorporate seven primary-source documents into the essay. Aye, and a week later, we'll get our papers back with around 30% of the possible marks and loads of comments on how our points are too vague or how the documents don't support our points, which in turn don't support our theses. Still, I can find some relief in the fact that most of my classmates will do worse than me.