Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 11, 2006

AP Comparative Gov and Politics FRQs

While I'm on the subject of AP exams, let me add one more thing.

The key to "doing what you're asked to do" in the AP FRQs is to pay attention to the verbs. I think it's the natural tendency when we're confronted with exam questions to focus on the nouns, i.e. what the question is about. But doing what you're asked to do with those topics is vital for success.

On pages 19-21 of my book (The AP Comparative Government and Politics Examination: What You Need to Know), I list the most commonly used verbs and describe what 16 of them are asking students to do. If you go to AP Central's guide to taking the AP Comparative exam, you'll find definitions of 11 verbs used in questions and the official AP word on what behavior each is intended to elicit.

In the AP course description, the sample FRQs use the verbs "how are" (in context, it seems like "describe"), "define" (five times), "explain" (three times), and "describe." So in the course of 8 questions, students are asked to do 10 things.

In last spring's exam, the verbs used were "define" (three times), "identify" (twice), and "describe" (twelve times). In 8 questions, students were asked 17 things. None of the things students were asked to do ranked very high on Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives.

A web page for curriculum revision project at Portland State University (OR) classifies all the AP verbs except "describe" as part of Bloom's "knowledge" category.

According to a list of "useful verbs" at the Teachers on the Web page of the Aussie Schoolhouse, "describe" only rises to the level of "understanding" if asked certain ways.

So the key to "doing what you're asked to do" on the AP Comparative exam seems to be "know the facts," and the first corollary is "know the context of the facts." The second corollary is "do what you're asked to do."

The test has not asked students to "interpret," "relate," or "classify" (Bloom's "application"). Nor has it asked students to "analyze," "contrast," "compare," or "distinguish" (Bloom's "analysis"). The exam has not asked students to "hypothesize" or "support" (Bloom's "synthesis") or "evaluate," "defend," or "criticize" (Bloom's "evaluation").

Standardized tests require standardized answers. Classifications, comparisons, hypotheses, and evaluations are very difficult to standardize.

But, the current version of the exam is still new. As the AP course development committee, the Educational Testing Service, and post-secondary political science departments evaluate the exam and the results, things could change. Stay in touch with the official word from the Advanced Placement program.

If you have comments or more questions, please use the "Comment" link below.


At 4:46 AM, Blogger Annie said...

How do I best explain corporatist, neo-coporatist, and state corporatism? I need good examples (I assume Mexico and Russia)

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

According to Kesselman, et al. (2004), p. A-4, "corporatism" is "a pattern of organizing interests and influency public policy in which the state gives favored status to certain interest groups; typically tripartite (three-way) consultations among representatives of business, labor, and government over economic policy. Corporatism can occur in democratic and authoritarian settins..."

O'Neil, et al. (2007), p. 92, discusses "neocorporatism" in the context of social democratic regimes like those in Germany and Scandinavian countries (i.e. democratic regimes)

Kesselman, et al. discusses "state corporatism" in Brazil after the Vargas revolution (p. 413) in ways that sound much like the corporatism in the PRC.

Almond and Powell, et al. (2007) pp. 70-71 discusses pluralistic corporatism in ways that sound they're talking about "neocorporatism" and discuss "controlled corporatism" in ways that sound like "state corporatism."

From the AP6, the best examples probably come from Mexio's PRI, the British Labour Party, the PRC's "controlled corporatism" (where all interest groups -- even non-political ones must be state sponsored), and Russia's business and union associations.

More questions?


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