Shmoop Launches Updated Guides to the AP® Chemistry and Spanish Language and Culture Exams

Shmoop equips students with the right stuff to keep up with new changes to the AP exams

Since there’s no point in students studying for the wrong exam, Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and test prep (including all 30+ AP exams), announces the launch of newly updated teacher guides and student diagnostic and practice exams for two Advanced Placement exams: the AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Chemistry exams.

Guide to the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam

Imagine a world where people only needed to know seven questions to get by in a Spanish-speaking country:

  • Where’s the bathroom?
  • Can I have a fork?
  • I would like two apples.
  • This is her cat.
  • Where did the spider go?
  • Turn left and walk past the post office to arrive at the library.
  • Seriously, where’s the bathroom?

If real life isn’t restricted to questions of the mundane and practical, exams shouldn’t be either, no? The College Board doesn’t think so either, which is why they’re introducing a new AP exam format for the Spanish Language and Culture exam. The updates include free response questions that focus on specific interpersonal and presentational communication skills so that students will actually be able to chat with real, native Spanish-speaking people in the not-so-distant future. The written section asks students to write an email and a persuasive essay, and the speaking section will require students to carry on a conversation and present on a cultural comparison…but don’t count on it to help you sound less awkward asking out that chica muy bonita.

The revamped AP Spanish Language and Culture exam features six course themes that range from technology to aesthetics. Students can bet that a selection about a family in a community will have something to do with the theme of la familias y las comunidades—and Shmoop is here to make sure they’re equipped with all the information they need to take that subject and run with it.

Guide to the AP Chemistry Exam

Since chemistry is really all about studying and understanding the building blocks of all materials on Earth and beyond, the AP exam is now focusing on laying down strong foundations in six guided inquiry investigations called “Big Ideas.” Gone are the days of memorizing exceptions to the Aufbau Principle and specific crystal structures. Instead, the exam is all about understanding chemistry—giving students the tools they need to solve problems and think about what is really happening in the lab.

As a perfect complement to completing hands-on chemistry labs in the classroom, Shmoop’s AP Chemistry guide, drills, and practice exams will give students the practice they need to succeed.

Ready? Let’s get started.

*AP® is a trademark registered registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

Shmoop Launches Online Courses for High School Students and a ‘High-Grade Fix’ for Breaking Bad Addicts

For students, back to school might mean the smell of sharpened pencils and lined paper, but for Shmoop, back to school smells like pure joy. We’re a digital publisher of content and educational resources for over 7 million unique monthly site visitors and thousands of schools. That means we love dishing out new products and features just in time for students and teachers to feast on as the school year gets started.

Shmoop’s Mirthfully Original Online Courses Are Here

Over the summer, Shmoop’s greatest minds and Chef de cuisines gathered together to determine how to create the perfect recipe for online courses that work. Using the highly scientific diagram below, we’ve created dozens of Common Core-aligned online courses inspired by the “best cuts” of Shmoop, including:

Introducing-ShMOOC

  • Hilarious Original Content
    Humor is the academic WD-40 we squirt on the educational tracks to make learning more fun, relevant, and accessible. So rest assured, all our content—from U.S. History to Modernist Literature to How to Write a Resumé—will have the same Shmoopy aftertaste as the literature guides and test prep resources you know and love.
  • Common Core Compliant
    Want to get published in The New Yorker? Vanity Fair? Well, Shmoop’s Common Core-aligned course on the Five-Paragraph Essay can’t help you. But we can promise to teach you to write spectacularly and nab that elusive A. Hey, we all gotta start somewhere. Check out more Common Core-aligned courses here.
  • Activities, Rubrics, & Teacher Notes
    This one we cooked up just for teachers! Shmoop’s online courses have activities, grading rubrics, quizzes, and individual diagnostics so that teachers are equipped with everything necessary to make Jedi Masters out of their Padawans—er, students.
  • Adaptable, Accessible, Affordable
    For a fraction of the price (and the weight) of a textbook, teachers and students can access high-quality, engaging content from anywhere in the world.

Go on and sample an online course from our fabulous menu of courses today!

Breaking Bad: Your Fix Of High-Grade SHMOOC

Step aside, Shakespeare. Breaking Bad is in town.

This Emmy-winning show is cleaning up on all sides, winning the hearts of critics and audiences alike. Even the Guinness World Records took it on, granting it the title of highest-rated TV series in history. This might explain why people have been nailed to their Netflix accounts for months, burning through all five seasons like it was Heisenberg’s Blue Sky. Don’t worry, Shmoop’s been there—and we’ve written academic papers about it, to boot.

Just in time for the series finale, Shmoop is releasing a 15-lesson course analyzing the beans out of this show: everything from Breaking Bad as a classical tragedy; the undertones of Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Kafka; its visual symbolism and clever filming; why people hate Skyler; and everything in-between.

So whether you’re just a casual fan or a theory-crafting addict, become the kingpin of Breaking Bad knowledge before saying goodbye to it all on AMC this Sunday.

What You Missed Over the Summer

In order to commemorate Back to School Shmoop style, we created an infographic to catch you up on on the gossip you might have missed over the summer. (Spoiler: Jung sits with Freud now. Awkward.)

Shmoop-ShMOOC-InfoGraphic (5)

Literature Guides
Game of Thrones finally overthrew The Hunger Games trilogies as the most-read literature summary. It’s not winter, but Katniss should have seen it coming.

Careers
As school ended and some students were out on their tuchus to find a job, they turned to Shmoop’s Career guide to start their journey to becoming adults. Of the top 10 states that visited our Careers page the most, we found it interesting that the Midwest and the South tended to concentrate on government and service-oriented jobs, while the coasts gravitated toward software engineer and, um, President.

College 101
In preparation for college applications, Shmoopers turned to College 101 to research scholarships that appealed to a variety of interests, including science, technology, community service, and… prom dress making. Haven’t started the college search yet? Not to worry! Check out our revamped College 101 page today and take our new quiz to point you in the right direction for everything related to financial aid, applications, and the best college mascots.

Shmoop on All Screens
The results are in: iPhones win the popularity contest over Android devices as the device of choice for Shmoopers. We saw a near 200% increase in visits to our site via a mobile phone, and nearly 3 out of 4 of those visits were from an Apple-produced phone.

Not to brag, but..
Huge shout out to Indio High School, who added a dose of Shmoop into their AP classrooms in 2011 and saw 5x more AP scholars in 2013 vs. the year they started with us. Their teachers deserve most of the credit, as they also took the school from the chronically underperforming list to a Top High School Silver Award Winner from US News & Reports! Hip hip hooray!

For more trends and insights, click here

Best Summer Movie Adaptations

Shmoop may be a literature lover, but we’re not literary snobs. We love to see our favorite books brought to life on the big screen.

Whether it’s adventures with Percy Jackson, demigod, fighting zombies with Brad Pitt, or tracking down demons with Clary Fray and Shadowhunters, this summer had a host of big-screen books. But which one was YOUR favorite?

Top Ten: Heroes

Heroes go through a specific, instantly recognizable journey. From answering the call to adventure, to chilling with Ganda—Dumble—Obi-Wa—their mentor, to beating the big bad, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with these larger-than-life do-gooders. But even though heroes typically follow the same structure, they all have their own unique talents and challenges.

Here are Shmoop’s Top Ten Studliest Heroes.

10. Heracles (Hercules)

Ah, Heracles: the quintessential mythological hero. The demi-god (his parents are the divine Zeus and the mortal Alcmene) killed many beasts and monsters and became a god after his death. Not all was cool for Herc, though. Herc had to fight not only literal demons but his personal ones as well. After killing his family, he had to perform the twelve labors in order to redeem himself. Of course, no sooner did he complete those than his wife accidentally poisoned him and killed him. Awks. Oh well. At least the Disney movie featured one of our fav songs of all time.

9. Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid

This epic poem, is, well, epic. Aeneas feels like he is doing the will of the gods by going into battle (though maybe he could have upped his mercy levels). In the end, Aeneas’ good characteristics arguably outweigh the bad: he displays incredible loyalty to people he cares about like his father, Anchises, and son, Ascanius… unfortunately, his call to action was more important than the feelings of his wife Dido. Insert sad face here.

8. Randle McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Randle’s character proves that you don’t have to win wars or fight beasts to be a hero. His antagonist is Nurse Ratched, who treats patients totally cruelly. He spends some time conforming to her rules, but he eventually has the bravery to stand up to her on behalf of his fellow patients, even in the face of electroshock therapy. After the death of his friend, he attempts to strangle the nurse and comes back from the hospital a different person, without his spark and vitality. Yup. Sometimes the hero’s tale doesn’t end in a fairytale happy ending, but that doesn’t eliminate his or her accomplishments.

7. Guy Montag from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Guy struggles a lot of guilt; he was a fireman who burned books and now he saves books? Throughout the novel, he tries to sort out his thoughts in a heroic mental battle while he tries to navigate a chilling dystopia. Guy shows that an epiphany does not come easily or can be prescribed in a book—experience plays a large role. So, in order to be a hero, you’ve got to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.

 6. Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie’s one of our favs because he’s super caring: he asks if his fellow golden ticket winners (who are total meanies) are okay after they get hurt. He also doesn’t talk a lot, so when he does, it means a lot. These qualities set him apart from the other spoiled children on the tour and ultimately show Mr. Wonka that Charlie would be the perfect person to inherit the eponymous factory. Brava, Charlie! You deserve it.

5. Arnold Spirit (a.k.a Junior) from Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Junior makes the transition from a reservation to an affluent white high school and proves to be one of the most compelling characters we’ve ever read about. He struggles with his identity—who is he? White? Indian?—and figuring out his place in the world. Junior finally realizes that he, like all of us, belongs to many tribes and he doesn’t have to pick just one. He’s able to combine all the parts of himself into one person, and that gives him the determination and perseverance to keep it together and succeed.

4. Mark Mathabane from Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy

Mark is dealt a tough lot in life: he grew up in Apartheid South Africa and lived in fear of the police. Despite his hardships, he succeeds academically and discovers a passion for tennis. Mark doesn’t let setbacks stop him, and eventually lands a tennis scholarship in the U.S. Talk about overcoming obstacles and showing the world how awesome you are.

3. Frodo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo starts out as an average, homely hobbit who is thought of as a bit odd, along with his adoptive dad, Bilbo (notice a trend in which the odd underdogs do great things?). He sets out on a quest to destroy the One Ring to Rule Them All in Mordor and, along with his fellowship of friends, he battles the evil outside and within and succeeds in his quest.

2. Frederick Douglass from Frederick Douglass’ The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Brush up for your AP US History exam, Shmoopers. In Douglass’ autobiography, he talks about what it was like to grow up in slavery and tells us his remarkable journey to freedom in the north. His tenacity and dedication to his belief that slaves should live regular lives led to some amazing accomplishments. This guy is a real, live hero.

1. Dr. Bernard Rieux from Albert Camus’ The Plague

The doctor steps up and insists action should be taken against the plague. But he doesn’t think that he’s a hero (nor does he want other people to think that). Rather, he’s just doing what has to be done. Can someone be a hero if they don’t think they are? We say yes!

Did we miss your favorite hero? Tell us in the comments!

Top Ten Heroines in Literature

There are so many literary heroines who inspire us with their razor-sharp wits (and sometimes razor-sharp aim). Regardless of who they are or where they’re from, these ladies kick butt and deserve our literary adulation. We’ve compiled a list of ten amazing literary heroines. There are way more than ten out there (ladies be fierce!), but these chicks are some of our favorites.

10. Artemis

File:Diane de Versailles Leochares.jpgRemember reading about mythology or, if you need more special effects, the Percy Jackson series? Artemis (or Diana, her Roman name) carries a hunting bow like The Hunger Game‘s Katniss Everdeen, but it’s not just because she’s starving and needs a meal: Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Pretty awesome, right? While her brother spends most of his time romancing the ladies, Artemis takes her virginity seriously and makes it a priority to protect young girls. While she has shown kindness to mortals, when things she cares about are threatened, Artemis has no problem showing her wrath. The way Artemis sticks to her convictions is admirable, but if you’re going to emulate our Virgin Goddess, you might want to try avoiding killing people.

9. Elizabeth Bennet

http://shmoopuniversity.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/e0d87-lizclose.jpg?w=210&h=193

Photo from the BBC.

Ah, Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, the subject of many movie adaptations, including our personal favorite, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Elizabeth’s main task (as given to her by her mother) is to find a husband, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is that she sticks up for her sisters and what she wants. When she realizes at the end of the novel that she’s been clouded by her quick judgment and prejudice all along, she is willing to change her mind and, finally, agrees to marry the slightly awkward and curmudgeonly Darcy. Lessons learned from the lovely Miss Bennet? Follow your heart, but be open to changing course when the time is right.

8. Ántonia Shimerda

http://www.waukeshareads.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/my_antonia.jpgNow we’re out West–Nebraska, to be more specific. Sure, it may be a super-long state to drive through, but a lot of things happen there. Ántonia’s character (or at least how Jim views her) is embodied by the Western landscape, full of warm colors. This fits perfectly with her strong personality and her refusal to fit into traditional gender roles. Through Jim’s nostalgic narration, the nature of his relationship with Ántonia is revealed (it is exactly what Avril Lavigne sings–”Complicated“), yet, at the same time, keeping it together in the face of her father’s suicide and harsh winters. We like ourselves some strong ladies and Ántonia is that in spades.

7. Matilda

Photo by Jersey Studios and TriStar Pictures.

Matilda is a young heroine–she’s only five–but she has the independence (who doesn’t love the part of the 1996 movie adaption where Matilda makes pancakes by herself?), smarts, and moral convictions of someone four times her age. Yet, she doesn’t brag (or humblebrag) about it. Oh, and our book-loving five-year-old also has telekinetic powers that she uses for good and to punish those who deserve, instead of going on a crazed rampage like Stephen King’s Carrie. Girl’s gonna go places.

6. Stargirl

http://shmoopuniversity.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/3b5c0-stargirl.jpg?w=102&h=134Before Zooey Deschanel and quirky chic became popular, there was Stargirl. She does her own thing, and doesn’t care what other people think. Among other things, Stargirl cheers when the other team scores because she genuinely is happy for their success, even though her classmates don’t like it. Stargirl is connected to the universe and ignores the people who bully her, instead choosing to be kind to everyone. Sounds pretty amazing, right? She changes for a brief while for love interest Leo, but finally finds solace (and popularity) by being herself at the Ocotillo Ball. The next time you think about changing yourself to fit in, channel your own inner Stargirl.

5. Scout Finch

http://www.thegalleryofheroes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Scout-Finch.png

Photo from Universal Pictures.

Harper Lee’s novel starts when Scout is only six. She’s a tomboy who gets into fights and figures the person who wins is in the right. Throughout the next four years, though, she matures and realizes that fighting is not so black and white anymore (even though the racism in her town would beg to disagree). While Scout is initially scared of shut-in Boo Radley, she comes to see him as a caring neighbor, though she is saddened she is not that to him. From putting herself in Boo’s shoes, she learned about both him and her own self. The pint-sized heroine shows the importance of self-knowledge and empathy.

4. Lisabeth Salander

http://silverscreening.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-movie-photo-03-4e614acfcc258.jpg?w=195&h=132

Photo from Columbia Pictures.

She can hack into things easily while sporting spiked hair, tattoos, and provocative T-shirts. Her obvious smarts are tempered by a likely diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, trust issues, and a history of promiscuity with men and women. Due to previous experiences, Lisabeth hates when men hurt women–and punishes those men accordingly. Despite her struggles, though, she keeps it together in order to carry out her moral code.

3. Jo March

http://louisamayalcottismypassion.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/jo-march.jpg?w=188&h=129

Photo by Columbia Pictures.

Jo (short for Josephine) is a tomboy with a wicked temper. As a teen, she would pick reading, writing, and the company of her sisters over anything–especially getting married. Even though it is unusual for a lady of her class, Jo had a job as a writer. With time (and a good measure of trial and error), her perspective shifts, and she ends up finding a man she truly loves who respects her and fits her idea of what an equal marriage could be. And then they proceed to be ridiculously adorable and open a school for ragamuffin boys. Jo March, you are the best.

2. Celie

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/6/60/ColorPurple.jpg/200px-ColorPurple.jpgCelie was handed a tough life: she was raped by her father several times and becomes part of an abusive marriage. She’s passive–except when people she loves are threatened, like her sister Nettie. Despite a considerable amount of hardship, Celie successfully stands up for herself and the people she cares about and ends up finding someone to care for who saves her. When you send love out into the universe, the universe responds with love–as Taylor Swift knows, love makes the world go round.

1. Esperanza Cordero

http://onmaturerecollection.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mango1.jpg?w=110&h=147Esperanza narrates The House on Mango Street in a series of stories in which she isn’t always the central character. Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense of Esperanza’s character: she struggles with loneliness and wants to fit in (who hasn’t felt this way?), in addition to experiencing shame about being poor. Instead of letting it bubble up (we’re talking to you, Hamlet), she uses writing as a productive method to sort out her feelings and experiences. Esperanza illustrates that anyone can have access to their own personal catharsis whether it involves blasting music, decorating cupcakes like a pro, or something completely different.

Is your favorite lady not on the list? Let us know who your favorite lit lady is in the comments!

Best Desert Island Companions

What if we told you that you could take an all-expenses paid trip to a desert island with a group of friends?  What would you pack? What would you wear? And most importantly, who would you bring?  We already covered who we wouldn’t want to bring, but we’re not anti-social, Tom Hanks-esque castaways. No, we’ve got the perfect list of companions for our desert island retreat.

1. The White Witch, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The first word in desert island is desert, and that means those suckers can get toasty.  What would be better (and more convenient) than having a witch who can create eternal winters serve as your air conditioning unit? Just don’t get on her bad side. Things might get a little too chilly.

2. Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Holly would definitely be able to put together some awesome parties from stuff found on the island.  Who needs the Professor making fake coconut radios when your girl Holly can make you a piña colada? Girls just want to have fun, are we right?

3. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series

Besides the fact that Hermione is one of the best characters ever, she has a lot of skills and talents that would be useful on an island. Between her encyclopedia knowledge of spells, her bag that can hold a never-ending amount of items, and her extensive knowledge of plants from taking Herbology classes, she would make sure everyone had a magical time, and even would be able to apparate us off once we got tired of Holly’s existential crisis. 10 points to Gryffindor!

4. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s common knowledge that when a group of people is in isolation for too long, some conflict can emerge.  (See: Lord of the Flies.) In addition to providing excellent eye candy by looking like the smoking Gregory Peck, Atticus is a great lawyer and mediator who would be able to settle any arguments and prevent things from escalating.

5. Tris Prior, Divergent

 Photo from Entertainment Weekly.

Tris is an all-around kick-butt lady.  She has an extensive knowledge of weapons and self-defense techniques from her Dauntless initiation training.  Plus she is super loyal and selfless (despite her claims otherwise) so she will always be willing to take one for the team.  We mean, a girl basically without fear? Totally someone we want on our island shortlist.

6. Feste, Twelfth Night

This character is a fool.  No, the kind that Mr. T likes to pity, but that archetypal figure who serves as comic relief by cracking jokes about everyone around them.  That sounds like even better entertainment than cable TV. You know, unless he makes fun of The White Witch. Then we might be in for a cold, er, treat.

How about you, Shmoopers? Who would you take with you to a desert island?

Worst Desert Island Companions

During summer break, we love to fantasize about a getaway to a nice tropical island far away from summer homework, our Shmoop SAT flashcards, and our younger siblings for whom we have to wake up at an ungodly hour to drive to summer camp.  A tropical vacay sounds like a sweet deal, Shmoopers, but depending on the company it could turn sour really fast.  Here’s a list of the people we definitely would not want to be stuck on a desert island with.

1. Jack, Lord of the Flies

We don’t know about you, but we like our guts and want to keep them inside of our bodies.  That means not having spears thrown at us by an English boy wearing face paint.

2. Macbeth, Macbeth

What’s even scarier than getting spears thrown at you by a schoolboy wearing face paint? A storied war hero who believes in some witchy mumbo jumbo and proceeds to hire murderers to assassinate you so he can control the hypothetical island.  Gulp.

3. East Side Greasers, The Outsiders

Too much testosterone, too little square footage.

4. Queen of Hearts, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Because (1) we don’t know how long we would be willing to play croquet with flamingos for and (2) we don’t want to have to deal with the consequences once we find out.

5. Elwin Lepellier, A Separate Peace

The thought of PTSD-having Leper jumping out at us from the jungle on island with mud all over his face is enough to give us nightmares for weeks…or maybe our own PTSD.

6. Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

Things we don’t want to deal with:

  • Daisy’s crying

  • Daisy’s inability to make a decision

  • Daisy’s issues with getting her white dresses dirty (and not just in the metaphorical way)

  • Her husband’s rage if we looked at her the wrong way (It was an eyeroll, we swear!)

How about you, Shmoopers? Who’s on your I’d-rather-share-a-tiny-boat-with-a-tiger-and-take-my-chances-than-stay-here-on-this-island list?

Stay tuned for our list of the BEST island companions.