While much of daily life has shut down due to COVID-19, AP tests have not. The first three AP tests of the 2019-2020 school year–two Physics C exams and the US Government exam–took place today, with the rest blocked into the next two weeks.
While the College Board has so far chosen to push back dates for the SAT in order to avoid moving the test online, that option was not so viable for AP tests, which only take place at the end of the course. In line with the votes of 91% of 18,000 surveyed AP students, the College Board decided to move testing online.
These new tests are significantly changed from the original versions. No test will include the standard multiple choice section, and free response sections are different as well. Slightly less material is covered on every test–each only goes through topics which most AP teachers over by mid-march, when most schools ceased holding in-person classes. Science and math exams, like chemistry, biology, and calculus, will include two FRQs, the first of which is supposed to take 25 minutes, the second 15. History and English exams only include one long-form free response question, and all are similar to document-based sections of the original exams. In art exams that grade portfolios, the required number of pieces has been lowered. Some of the largest changes are those made to language and culture exams, which are now based completely on listening and spoken responses, completely independent of reading or writing tasks.
Students have mixed opinions about the College Board’s decision to continue with AP testing despite the pandemic.
“College Board did, in my opinion, make the right choice in continuing with AP testing on an online format because it is the best alternative to the now-impossible in-person format that will still reasonably provide students with a chance to earn college credit,” said senior Benjamin Moskalski, who is taking 6 AP exams. “Had they decided to cancel the tests altogether, I am sure there would have been massive outrage from students and parents alike due to the inability to obtain hard-earned college credits.”
Others have less positive opinions, citing various concerns about new testing methods.
“I think that College Board should have just cancelled all the tests. I think this puts an unfair advantage in students who have access to reliable wifi and prep books. And I honestly think that the new testing format is bad because it doesn’t allow for diversity of skill like the other AP test would. If you’re not good at writing, you’re basically screwed for the test,” said junior Maeve Ridings.
Senior Franny Gibson echoed Ridings’ concern about equity, adding that she was unsure about the ways cheating would affect the outcome of the examinations.
“I don’t think the cheating prevention measures are strong enough, because AP tests are scored on a curve and, if students cheat, it will mess with that curve and reward students who cheated and punish those with the integrity to take the test honestly.”
Views on the format vary similarly, ranging from very positive to negative.
“I love the format because it seems easy and way less intimidating than the normal system,” said junior Sebastian Provencio.
Sophomore Cecily Wilson’s opinion is more mixed. “I’m personally taking the WHAP exam and I feel like using the computer is the best format, however, it’s a bit stressful with all of the testing codes. Also, there are multiple ways to submit your DBQ, which is nice.”
Others have concerns about the short time limits, which are designed to prevent cheating. “I think it’s bad because it no longer represents an actual college test. It instead tests how well kids do under a time crunch, which I don’t think is representative of the knowledge learned during the course,” said Ridings.
Some also point out that the difference in format also leads to questions about how much students should pay to take this year’s exams. “Given the fact that less graders are needed and the tests are shorter, it seems unfair that the tests are the same price as they were originally,” said Gibson.