Despite Pandemic, Many Prep Students Excelled on AP Exams

Remote learning and changing circumstances couldn’t stop many Prep students


In a stressful school year filled with anxiety and worry, Passaic Preparatory Academy students sought to pass their Advanced Placement exams despite a period of uncertainty, as the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered schools from March 13 through graduation. 

In all, 229 Prep students took 504 AP exams in the 2019-20 school year. While some students’ scores may have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, as well as technical difficulties caused by taking the tests remotely, others conquered the new challenges created by the pandemic and remote learning and passed with a score of 3 or higher.

AP exams were shortened to 45-minute, free-response exams this year. A typical exam would be two to three hours.

“It is unfortunate that some students may have had their test results compromised by technical glitches and a new exam format,” AP English Language and Composition teacher Ms. Mulreany told The Boulevard. “Despite these obstacles, we did have students who did very well on the AP Language and Composition exam. It’s impressive to note that even with the exam content being changed, these students were able to maintain their focus and adapt to the new testing requirements.”

Kimberly Daniel, a Prep junior, took her first two AP exams — U.S. History and English Language and Composition. She passed with a 5 and a 4, respectively.

“When I found out about my AP scores, I literally started to cry so much,” she said. “I was so overjoyed and in pure shock. Even though I knew that I worked hard, I couldn’t believe it. To this day I am still in disbelief.” 

She attributes some of her success to AP teachers Mr. Costarelli, Ms. Huze, and Ms. Mulreany for holding timed practice exams and reviewing the content. They also lessened the amount of work in their class, giving students time to study, she said.

Daniel prepared by watching YouTube videos, including Hemiler’s History, which helps students study, and videos from the College Board.

“The exams were better than I expected. I was lucky that the College Board only required us to write one essay, because writing is easier than multiple choice for me,” Daniel added. “Not to mention, for the AP Lang exam, I did not have to worry about mastering three different types of essays, instead I only had to focus on one. During my exam, I was also lucky to have received prompts that I could understand.”

The exams were better than I expected.”

— Prep junior Kimberly Daniel

Another Prep junior, Daniela Velazquez, passed her first two AP exams despite contracting Covid-19, along with her family. She earned a 4 in her AP English and Language Composition exam and a 3 in AP U.S. History.

After spending a lot of preparation studying the multiple choice section for her English exam, Velazquez admitted she was upset when she found out that the exam would consist of a free-response question. However, she used all the time she had from March to May, focusing on crafting a near-perfect rhetorical analysis essay.

“Honestly, the shift of learning environments affected me greatly, because I’m a more efficient learner when someone is physically present to teach me unfamiliar topics,” Velazquez said. “There was definitely a lot of change, but nothing too difficult that I couldn’t overcome.”

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I think that it is important to keep focused and positive when facing the challenge of learning new AP content virtually at the start of this upcoming school year.”

— Ms. Mulreany, Prep teacher of AP English Language and Composition

To adapt to the circumstances, Velazquez took practice exams and watched YouTube videos of students who previously passed the exams for advice. Like Daniel, she thanks Mr. Costarelli and Ms. Mulreany for the amount of time they spent making sure students were prepared and confident.

The Prep junior said she was nervous throughout the process. Her solution to calm down her nerves? Chewing gum!

“My biggest obstacle was my nervousness, and though I think it affected my performance in my first exam for U.S. History, it was dealt with in my second exam. As I like to say: We love improvement,” she said.

Both juniors agreed that they are relieved and proud they passed their exams. However, they are not satisfied with their scores as they believe they could have earned a 5.

“Of course, though, I know a number doesn’t define me,” Velazquez said. “I’m proud that I completed them and tried my best. I’ll use this experience as a way to enhance my performances in the future.”

The switch to remote learning in March may have been difficult for students to adapt to, as they had to learn and study content virtually.

Next year will be a different challenge, said Ms. Mulreany.

“I think that it is important to keep focused and positive when facing the challenge of learning new AP content virtually at the start of this upcoming school year,” Ms. Mulreany said. “Students who did not receive passing scores on some of their AP exams this past year can use that experience to guide them in preparing for future exams.” 

The City of Passaic’s Board of Education recently ruled that the Passaic Public Schools District will be remote-learning only through Oct. 31, when the Board will re-evaluate the reopening plan.

Ms. Mulreany said she is confident that Prep students will be able to adapt to any new circumstances.

“While we are encountering some unprecedented challenges in starting the school year, virtually we have the ability and technology to adapt to these new changes and be successful,” she said.