The Upper(Class) Hand: CHS students evaluate the validity of the claim: “older students perform better than younger students in class”


Christina Yang

Senior Nickolas “Nick” Gemelas completes a lab during his B4 Physics C class. Gemelas, on the subject of age gaps in classes, said he believed having a wide range of ages in a class could prove beneficial to students.

Angela Li, Feature Reporter

Senior Nick Gemelas is taking five AP classes this year as part of the senior schedule, which, for him, includes AP Physics 1. Gemelas said he is taking physics this year as it is one of the remaining AP science classes he has yet to take and will help better prepare him for entering into a STEM major in college. However, what makes his physics class unique is that he’s surrounded not just by his fellow seniors, but by students from all grades. This is not a unique experience; in fact, there are several high-level classes offered at CHS that includes a mixture of students ranging from freshmen to seniors.

According to a study conducted last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, older kids seem to do better in the classroom, even through college. While this is an assumption some would believe to be common sense, does this trend apply to students at this school, especially for ones who are enrolled in APs and other high-level classes?

Gemelas said when it comes to their performance while physically in class, his perception is [that] the older students do seem to perform and participate better, as they are more willing to interact and share their ideas in comparison to the younger students.

Freshman Noah Tan, also in Gemelas’s AP Physics class, says he sees the same difference as Gemelas in terms of in-class participation.

“I don’t know (the upperclassmen). I would rather have freshmen in my class because then I’d be more likely to know them and interact with them.”

However, according to David James, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C teacher as well as Gemelas’s and Tan’s physics teacher, while the in-class performance from the upperclassmen may be high, the younger students in AP Physics 1 tend to outperform their older counterparts on tests and the AP exam at the end of the year.

“I would speculate that the average score for the freshmen and sophomores is higher only because they’re so far motivated or advanced that they have that work ethic to put them in an advanced spot,” James said.

James said he believes a large reason for their success in class is the “young attitude” the underclassmen have.

“I think the advantage the younger students have is that they are very focused on getting their homework done, whereas the older kids have learned to manipulate the system a

little bit more. They’ve learned how to procrastinate effectively,” James said.

Gemelas offered another reason for the performance discrepancy.

“If they [underclassmen] do better than me, I’m not going to be surprised because these people are geniuses or really, really smart, so it doesn’t bother me because, in my experience, I’ve been around that for a long time. I just do the best I can,” Gemelas said.

Despite these differences, however, the freshmen and seniors in the class are more similar than one might expect. When it comes to their academics, Gemelas and Tan, both of whom are very intrinsically motivated, have strikingly similar views.

“I don’t feel pressured to perform better in a class with freshmen in it because, strictly speaking, I think my academics should only apply to me,” Gemelas said. “I think if freshmen are already in an AP Physics class, they’re already motivated enough to take care of themselves.”

Tan said he also agrees that his academics are and should only be personal to himself.

“Other people in the class shouldn’t really affect how well I do in the class,” Tan said.

The two said they also hope to accomplish similar goals in their AP classes this year, striving to maintain a high grade in the class and score well on their AP exams in May.

“I definitely want to get as much college credit as I can through the AP exams,” Gemelas said. “I mean, obviously I want to get as good grades as possible to make sure that I have the qualifications, the academics to be in the colleges I’m looking to apply to.”

Ultimately, Gemelas said, regardless of who does well, having freshmen in the same class as him is mutually beneficial to both ends of the age spectrum/said he believes there are benefits to having a broad range of age groups represented in some of his classes.

“Honestly, I like having some classes that are all seniors and some that don’t because if I had all my classes with all seniors, I would just feel like I wouldn’t be in contact with the rest of the school,” Gemelas said. “I mean especially because I’m taking a lot of AP classes, I’ve been more or less with the same 100 or 200 kids for all four years, so it’s definitely good to have some diversity and meet new people.”

“Well, I think that it probably works in our favor at some point because Mr. James has to talk to a variety of age groups so I think that it helps encourage him to explain it in a very simple way, or as simple as possible, so that everyone can take it in,” Gemelas said. “It’s nice to have a whole diversity of groups because then the concepts have to be taught for everyone.”