Madison Hoyle spent hours upon hours reviewing practice problems and quizlets, so she’d be fully prepared for the Cambridge International AS Psychology exam.
It turns out that was time well-spent for the Pasco High senior.
Hoyle was recently recognized by Cambridge Assessment International Education for achieving the highest score in the nation on the psychology exam, outperforming all other American students.
Hoyle and other Pasco High students in the Cambridge program took the two-part, written psychology exam last May.
The first paper required students to recall details of well-known psychological studies, such as the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments.
The second paper required students to evaluate the experiments by explaining given strengths and weaknesses, and providing a better, alternative study themselves.
Hoyle, in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News, said she was “blown away” when she heard about the high mark.
Nevertheless, Hoyle admitted the exam as a whole wasn’t too difficult, noting the first written exercise was easier than the second “just because it was a lot of being able to memorize.”
Said Hoyle, “I pretty much spent like three days memorizing all that stuff, so I knew pretty much that I was pretty good on paper one. Paper two was challenging because you kind of had to talk about all the studies as a whole and compare them.”
The Cambridge curriculum can be compared to Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula, whereby students in the high school program can earn college credits and an international diploma. Those who earn the diploma also qualify for a Florida Bright Futures College scholarship.
In 2017, students in the United States completed nearly 100,000 Cambridge International AS & A Level exams, a record number and an increase of 23 percent over the prior school year, according to Cambridge International.
Hoyle, a Zephyrhills native, has been taking Cambridge classes at Pasco High since her freshman year.
In choosing the accelerated academic program, it was a matter of convenience compared to the IB program at Land O’ Lakes High School.
Hoyle said she was debating whether to do IB or Cambridge and decided on Cambridge because she didn’t want to get up really early to take a bus over to Land O’ Lakes.
She also liked the fact that Cambridge didn’t require her “to take classes like fine arts and gym and that kind of thing, and I could actually take classes that were interesting that would also count as college credit.”
Because of all the Cambridge credits she earned, Hoyle said her college freshman year will be mostly complete.
Hoyle will attend Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall, where she plans to study biology. She eventually wants to go to medical school and become an emergency room doctor.
She said the Cambridge program helped her to become a better learner, which may ease the transition to college life.
In some instances, Cambridge courses were more challenging than AP courses, the student said.
“I think the fact that all of the (Cambridge) tests were written helped because I actually had to know things to be able to write them down, instead of being able to try and guess on it,” Hoyle said.
“Even though there are some written responses on AP, it’s primarily multiple choice, so even if you don’t know how to do the problem, there’s a chance that you can kind of guess on it. With Cambridge, there’s really no way to go around that. You actually have to have the information and be able to do it.”
Hoyle wasn’t the only Pasco High student recognized by Cambridge International.
Thirty of her peers were also recipients for Cambridge Learner Awards for their achievement on Cambridge examinations for the 2016-2017 school year.
And, Pasco County Schools as a whole was named District of the Year — Medium Sized Cambridge District.
The district was recognized for expanding access to Cambridge exams by more than 100 percent and achieving a pass rate of 76 percent.
The district launched the Cambridge education program at Pasco High and Pasco Middle schools in 2014.
The acceleration program has since been incorporated into San Antonio Elementary, Paul R. Smith Middle and Anclote High schools.
Pasco High teacher Erika Simmons administers several Cambridge courses, including psychology.
She taught many of the students recognized by Cambridge, including Hoyle.
“They’re a tremendously bright group of kids that for being part of a program so new, they’ve been able to thrive and be very successful, and patient,” the teacher said.
Simmons, who previously taught AP classes for several years at Wiregrass Ranch High, explained it was a “huge change” for instructors and students adjusting to the Cambridge educational style.
In the AS-level Psychology course, for example, students focused on 20 different studies or experiments in depth, ranging from biological to social psychology. The students were then required to not only have in-depth knowledge about each study but also be able to critically evaluate the study on topics, such as usefulness, validity, reliability and ethics.
Said Simmons, “The biggest thing is (students) learn to really be critical thinkers… and they learn how to really deconstruct information. They do a lot of reflecting on the process of learning, and I think that whole reflection process pushes them to another area of learning that AP really doesn’t offer as much.”
She continued: “They’re taught to question the validity, the credibility of sources, whether it’s in psychology, chemistry, in the news. They’ve learned to be critical of things, as well as getting multiple perspectives on things…and then analyzing, ‘OK, well which one of these do I go with? What do I support?’”
Simmons was initially astonished, yet ultimately not surprised, when she heard Hoyle achieved the nation’s highest mark on last May’s psychology exam.
The teacher described Hoyle as “incredibly diligent and focused.”
Simmons added: “She’s an out-of-the box thinker. She doesn’t come to deal with the generic ideas. She does bring new ideas and questions in her studies.
“Last year, when I would grade Madison’s papers or I’d grade the whole class, if I was frustrated that kids weren’t getting it, I could always go to Madison’s paper and be like, ‘OK, I know she’s going to get it because she always did. It was consistent. …I don’t think she got anything but As on her exams last year, so I knew that she always showed that she knew what she was doing. I never worried about her,” the teacher said.
Pasco High School Cambridge Scholar Award winners
- Andrew Hull
- Carrie Greene
- Tam-An Hoang
- Kayleigh Heather
- Drew Johnston
- Julia Gregory
- Madison Jender
- Madison Hoyle
- Sylvia Martinez
- Molly Bentley
- Savannah Jividen
- Mackenzie Green
- Taylor Hays-Lankford
- Elizabeth Coleman
- Allyson Worthy
- Brendan College
- Brittnee Hampton
- Hazel Wilburn
- Lindsey Torres
- Akosua Kissi
- Nathalie Sawczuk
- Micaela Blomeley
- Annemarie Peacock
- Amber Wood
- Susana Stripling
- Maunel Tarango
- Brian Andruskiewicz
- Emily Weiser
- Jillyan Jerkins
- Cara Dwyer
Published May 9, 2018