APES Exam and Bloom’s Taxonomy/Depth of Knowledge

I’ve always told people that the AP Exam has a lot of higher order thinking questions, but never took to the time to actually count how many were in a sample released exam.  I wanted some evidence for my students as I explained why I flipped my course so the “easy” stuff (lower level thinking) is at home and the harder stuff (higher level thinking) is in class. (More info on communicating flipping to students and parents can be found here and research about flipped classrooms can be found here)

I took the most recent released exam for APES (2016) and broke it down. This was the first time that I analyzed an exam in this way so I mostly likely mis-classified a few questions, but the data below can at least give a sense of how the test is written.

2016 APES Exam Analysis

Blooms Taxonomy 

1: Remember
2: Understand
3: Apply
4: Analyze
5: Evaluate
6: Create (not found on this AP Exam)

Levels 1 and 2 are lower level and made up 35% of MC and 38% of FRQs
Levels 3, 4 and 5 are higher level and make up 65% of MC and 62% of FRQs

Depth of Knowledge 

Level 1: Recall and Reproduction
Level 2: Basic Application of Skills and Concepts
Level 3: Strategic Thinking
Level 4: Extended Thinking

Levels 1 and 2 are lower level and make up 46% of MC and 41% of FRQs
Levels 3 and 4 are higher level and make up 54% of MC and 59% of FRQs

More about DOK in Science: http://www.nciea.org/sites/default/files/publications/DOKscience_KH11.pdf

I’ve read some opinions online that DOK-4 cannot be asked on an exam-they’re more long-term labs or projects.  I disagree. I think the some questions on the AP Exam are so complex and meet the requirements of DOK-4.

How to increase higher level thinking

Higher level thinking skills can be increased by a lot of data gathering, analysis, and graphing, math calculation practice, student discussion and novel problem solving.

Using released exams help students practice the types of problems found on AP Exams.  Using released multiple choice and released FRQs can help build skills with students.

This article:  “Teaching for higher levels of thinking: developing quantitative and analytical skills in environmental science courses”  showed that students increased proficiency in scientific math calculations and may increase proficiency by practicing Data Analysis Skills. 

2016 Released Exam Questions

Below is how I identified each question from 2016. I’m not the expert in this process so feel free to comment if you disagree about a level. I’d love to hear your reasoning.

1st number is Question #
2nd number is DOK Level
3rd number is Blooms Taxonomy Level

Multiple Choice Section

1    1   1

2   1   1

3   1   1

4   2   2

5   2   2

6   1   1

7   1   1

8   2   3

9   1   1

10   2   2

11   2   2

12   2   2

13   3   4

14   3   4

15   3   5

16   3   5

17   2   2

18   3   3

19   1   1

20   2   2

21   3   4

22   2   3

23   3   4

24   2   2

25   1   1

26   4   5

27   2   3

28   4   5

29   3   4

30   3   4

31   3   4

32   2   2

33   2   2

34   3   4

35   2   2

36   2   2

37   3   4

38   2   3

39   4   4

40   4   5

41   2   2

42   4   5

43    3   3

44   2   2

45   2   3

46   2   4

47   4   5

48   3   4

49   4   5

50   4   5

51   3   5

52   4   5

53   4   5

54   4   3

55   4   5

56   2   3

57   2   2

58   2   2

59   3   4

60   4   5

61   4   5

62   2   2

63   3   4

64   3   4

65   4   4

66   3   4

67   2   2

68   2   2

69   3   3

70   3   4

71   2   2

72   4   5

73   2   2

74   4   5

75   2   2

76   3   3

77   2   3

78   3   4

79   2   2

80   4   5

81   1   2

82   3   3

83   4   5

84   2   3

85   3   4

86   3   4

87   2   3

88   2   2

89   4   5

90   3   4

91   2   2

92   3   4

93   2   2

94   3   4

95   4   4

96   3   4

97   3   3

98   3   4

99   3   3

100   2   3

 

FRQs
I found it interesting to classify some of these questions. For example, 3d asks about the health problems associated with piles of tires. If I had covered this in class, it would be lower level, but since I did not, the kids had to apply what they knew in a new situation and come up with an answer. So, for my kids, this ended up being a higher level question. 

1a   3   4

1bi   3   3

1bii   4   5

1c   3   4

1d   3   3

1e   4  5

 

2ai   3  3

2aii   3   3

2aiii   3   3

2b   3   3

2c   2   2

2d   2   2

2e   3   3

 

3ai   3   4

3aii   3   3

3bi   2   2

3bii    2  2

3c   2   2

3d   4   4

3e   2   2

3e   2   2

 

4a   4   4

4bi   1   2

4bii   1   2

4ci   2   3

4cii   3   3

4di   2   2

4dii   2   2

4e   4   5