AP test-takers have ‘swag’

Grading AP Comparative Government tests is educational, writes Coach Brown, who graded with “awesome” colleagues. Every AP teacher should know how readers analyze answers, he suggests.

Some AP test takers don’t even try: They wrote that they weren’t prepared and already had been admitted to college.  Quite a few wrote that they’d been required to take the test.

Experienced graders say that every year the students who aren’t trying seem to gravitate to a theme. This year, it was “swag,” referring to confidence and demeanor.

Some people wrote about how President Putin had major swag while Prime Minister Cameron had little swag. Others wrote how their life was full of swag, from chillin with homies to getting the ladies and playing hoop. Still others would actually write rap lyrics dedicated to swag.

But the ultimate was when one reader suddenly stated “Look! It’s a complete treatise on swag!” Sure enough, a student had taken the time to write what could be considered the definitive Wikipedia post on swag. It really had us rolling with laughter.

I ran across a different definition of swag when I volunteered as a copy editor for Mosaic, a high school student journalism workshop at San Jose State. A story on fixed-gear bicycling – a hip trend I’d never heard of — reported that cool “fixies” score free promotional products or “swag.”  Copy editing can be educational too. The Urban Dictionary accepts both definitions.


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  1. Allison says:

    SWAG=Stuff We All Get. It’s the acronym for the promotional junk.

    So swagger is now abbreviated. Good to know.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:


    My thoughts exactly. I shan’t be using the abbreviated form myself, but it will be good to know.

  3. SWAG can also mean “scientific, wild-ass guess” in some circles.

    I admit my first thought on hearing “swag” though is “stuff given out for free at conventions and the like.” (I tell my students they can gauge how much outside money is in a discipline by the quality of swag at the conferences: at the ecological meetings I go to, I’m lucky to come home with a pencil or a pack of seeds. At more medical-science themed meetings, there are t-shirts and other “cooler” stuff.