AP Capstone Diploma Program Challenges Students


Photo by Karin Juhl Mr. David Schmitt, far right, works with students in his AP Seminar class.

Karin Juhl

Two rigorous courses offered at CHS are AP Seminar and AP Research, and they are very different from many other Advanced Placement classes.

“Instead of teaching specific subject knowledge, AP Seminar and AP Research use an interdisciplinary approach to develop the critical thinking, research, collaboration, time management and presentation skills students need for college-level work,” according to the College Board, the non-profit organization that oversees the AP Program.

These courses help students learn how to complete a research project, write an academic paper and give a presentation of their findings.

“I think students should take AP Seminar and Research because they help students develop skills that can be useful beyond high school and outside of the classroom, whether that be in higher education and in the workplace,” said Mr. David Schmitt, who teaches these classes.

     The first class a student takes is AP Seminar, in which students look at a variety of subjects, write research papers and essays, and create presentations both individually and in a group.

     AP Research is taken after AP Seminar. In AP Research students build on what they learned by exploring a problem or issue of their choosing. Students plan and conduct their own research over the course of the year and write a paper and create a presentation at the end to present their findings.

Junior Jenna Christenson is currently working on her AP Research project about LGBTQ+ representation in the media. She and the rest of her class have finished the planning stage and are currently working on creating surveys to send out to high school students in order to collect data.

Christenson said, “I took AP Seminar and Research mainly so I could work towards earning the AP Capstone Diploma.”

Also based on the AP Seminar and Research courses is the AP Capstone Program. This program rewards students who have completed the AP Seminar and AP Research classes as well as other AP classes throughout high school.

To receive the AP Capstone Diploma, a student must earn a 3 or higher on the AP Seminar and AP Research tests as well as at least a 3 on four other AP exams. If a student doesn’t earn 4 additional AP credits but still passes the AP Seminar and AP Research tests, the student will earn the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

Scoring for AP Seminar and AP Research are also very different from other AP courses.

In AP Seminar, there are three parts to a student’s AP score: Performance Task 1, Performance Task 2 and the End-of-Course Exam.

The End-of-Course Exam is like the normal end of the year AP exams for other AP courses. On this exam students demonstrate how to evaluate the validity of someone else’s argument as well as create their own strong argument.

In Performance Task 1, students form groups of three to five and come up with their research topic together. Then, each member writes an individual research paper about the topic. After every group member has written their paper, they come together and create a presentation using all of their information.

In Performance Task 2, students individually write an argumentative

research paper and give a presentation about another topic or issue that interests them. In both performance tasks, the papers are graded by the College Board, and the presentations are graded by the teacher.

In AP Research, students spend the whole year conducting their own research and, near the end of the year, write a research paper and give a presentation based on their findings. Similar to AP Seminar, the paper is scored by the College Board and the presentation is scored by the teacher.