AP testing adapts to accommodate social distancing

The College Board has announced that exams will be taken open book-style online at home. // Photo by Micayla Roth / Online Executive Editor.

With schools being closed until at least May 20 due to the spread of COVID-19, the College Board has released changes that they have made for this year’s Advanced Placement (AP) exams. In an email to all AP students, they stated that they “surveyed 18,000 AP students and 91% indicated they want to complete the important step, urging us not to cancel their AP Exams.”

 The exams will now be 45-minute open book/open note at-home tests that can be taken online on any device or written by hand and submitted with a photo. Most exams will be 45 minutes, plus 5 minutes for uploading. Students were recently instructed to download a secure lockdown browser to prevent forms of cheating. Instructions for downloading this are on AP Classroom and on the day of the exam, students must access the system 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam to set up. Art and Design: 2D, Art and Design: 3D, Computer Science Principles, Drawing, Research, and Seminar will require portfolio submissions instead of an online exam, and world language exams will be two spoken tasks, similar to free-response questions three and four on a normal AP Exam. The College Board released a new schedule in which students will be able to take the exam around the same time as they normally would, May 11-22. However, a makeup testing option, which must be approved by Guidance Department Head Ms. Ochoa, is also available during the week of June 1.

“The [Free Response Question (FRQ)] format seems like it is the only way [the] College Board can ensure test security and reduce cheating. Testing will be on analytical/critical thinking as opposed to content. I actually think this is a great way to assess students; however, the change puts students at a disadvantage over normal testing because it was not what we were preparing for. Also, there is a lot riding on just two FRQs; it does not seem like enough. Luckily, I have covered all the content required and I will now take these weeks leading up to the exam for FRQ practice to make sure my students are prepared for whatever they may encounter on test day. It is uncharted waters and I think we are all just doing the best we can,” AP science teacher Ms. Grant said.

Because many students may not be able to complete all content by May, the College Board also announced that they are taking certain units off of the exams. They removed what would be the last few units of the course if schools followed the same order; however, some courses are told to teach in any order and because of that, content that students spent time focusing on is now being taken off of their exam. 

“The College Board’s changes in the way we will be tested will not sufficiently test our knowledge on the subject and will leave out many skills we worked on developing in these classes,” Savannah Madar (’21) said.

With all of these changes being made, questions have arisen concerning college credit for passing these exams. Scoring for this year’s exam is the same 1-5 scale as past years and the College Board is aiming to release scores “as close to the July timeframe as possible,” according to the email sent by the College Board. In the same email, the College Board announced that hundreds of colleges across the country are supporting their solution for this year’s exams so they are confident that the majority of them will award college credit just like they have in the past. However, students are still worried that some colleges will not accept credit.

“I am just worried colleges will not even accept the results of the exams,” Cece Coleman (’21) said.

Because of the new changes or at-home circumstances, students are changing their mind about taking the exams. The College Board announced in their Frequently Asked Questions that they “won’t charge anything for an exam that isn’t taken, including the base exam fee as well as any additional fees such as the late order fee or canceled/unused exam fee.” The process for getting a refund will be determined by the school and test center.

As always, AP Classroom is continuing to be a resource for students but the College Board also began free live AP review courses taught by AP teachers across the country. There are also on-demand lessons for Art and Design, AP Capstone, and Computer Science Principles. Beginning April 13, there will be a Student Practice Section that has free-response questions — and a review on how they will be scored — beneficial for practicing concepts and skills that will be seen on the exams. For more information about specific exams or testing in general, check your @stamfordpublicschools.org Gmail account for Ms. Ochoa’s email or go click here.

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