Face-to-Face AP Exams Canceled, Online Ones Offered on Optional Basis

March 25, 2020

Girls+work+in+an+AP+English+class.

Photo courtesy of Maddy Art

Girls work in an AP English class.

Update: AP tests will be optional for Greylock students (and students will receive refunds if they choose not to take them). Here are what the exams will look like:

  • AP US History and AP European History: 1 DBQ, 5 Sources
  • AP English Language: 1 Rhetorical Analysis
  • AP English Literature: 1 Prose Fiction Analysis
  • AP Psychology: 1 Concept Application FRQ (25 min), 1 Experiment-based FRQ (15 min)
  • AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics: 1 25 min FRQ, 1 15 min FRQ, both general course content
  • AP Biology: 1 Experiment-based FRQ (25 min), 1 Conceptual FRQ (15 min)
  • AP Physics C: E & M: 1 Conceptual FRQ (25 min), 1 Experiment-based FRQ (15 min)
  • AP Spanish Language: 1 Conversation, 1 Cultural Comparison
  • AP Latin: 25 min of syllabus readings, 15 min of Vergil sight-reading
  • AP Computer Science Principles: Completion of Create and Explore Performance Task

On Friday, March 20, the College Board announced their response to COVID-19, and how the lack of school will affect students’ preparedness for AP testing. 

The virus is dangerously contagious and has therefore caused nearly every school district to shut down due to the close contact that each student faces in their classes. 

Due to the fact that students are no longer being taught face to face by a teacher, the question of whether or not AP testing will still be administered come May has been rapidly circulating. 

On Friday, the College Board announced that due to the Coronavirus outbreak, it would not be safe to administer face to face AP Testing, nor would it be fair to students struggling to learn without remote learning. 

Nick Anderson, a writer for the Washington Post tweeted, “Breaking: College Board plans to offer 45-minute AP exams that can be taken online at home. To be fair to all students … the exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March” (@wpnick).

According to the College Board, “we surveyed 18,000 AP students and 91% indicated they want to complete this important step, urging us not to cancel this opportunity they have been working toward.” 

Rather than entirely cancelling the exam, the College Board has decided to administer a 45 minute online exam for students, and it will only cover material that students should have covered by early March as a way to be fair to all students.

Jeffery Welch, a multi-subject AP teacher (European History and US History) is “intrigued” by the new format. 

“Three and a half hours always seemed a little inhumane to me,” Welch said. “Forty-five minutes almost seems like too little and doesn’t quite feel like enough to test your knowledge of European history.”

Part of the format change includes a complete elimination of the multiple-choice section of the exam, due to concerns regarding student integrity and test security.

“With the new forty-five minute test,” said sophomore Luca Hirsch, “I don’t think it will adequately prepare me for future AP tests and it opens the door to testing on topics we may not have learned with our teacher.”

“I think we should either have the tests the normal way or be able to opt out of our AP tests this year,” Hirsch said, “because I didn’t pay a lot of money for a substitute test that seems like an excuse for the college board to still collect their money.”

On Monday, principal Mary Macdonald sent out an email to all Mount Greylock students saying that this year, the AP test would be optional for students. 

“I’m pretty bummed about it because we’ve all worked so hard this year and we’re getting such a small test compared to last year,” junior Will Starenko said. “I also don’t think we should have to pay a dime. But it’s better that they have a forty-five minute test than no test at all.”

Another junior AP Student, Charlotte Sanford, expressed her concern towards the possibility of cheating. 

“It prevents a lot of the people who wouldn’t cheat from potentially not having the same opportunity as someone who does cheat,” Sanford said. “If you are putting work and effort in, you want to make sure that you get that out!”

Although there is concern about test security and cheating, the College Board has ensured that they “use a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to protect the integrity of the exams.” 

Despite the precautions that they are taking, there is always the possibility for students to overcome this and it is unclear how the College Board would be able to monitor students, especially because they will be working at home. They have not disclosed specifically which softwares they will be using to prevent plagiarism.

“While I applaud the College Board for working so diligently to create testing options that honor students’ hard work all year long,” said sophomore Mackenzie Sheehy, “I think it will be hard to achieve. There is no way to ensure that students have the ability to take the test securely or that they will still be inclined to take it.”

Sheehy added that “students work hard to learn new skills — writing, examining documents, drawing broader connections, providing evidence that I’m not sure students will have the proper platform to display their mastery of these things.”

When asked about how they might update their methods of teaching in regards to this unforeseen event, Welch said that “provided we can get back to it, I’d like to see if this crisis couldn’t be turned into an opportunity. If the constraints of the exam are eased, we might be able to do something new and different as a class.”

AP Statistics teacher Lucas Polidoro explained that he is planning on continuing to teach from a distance at a similar pace to what was done in school.

“I am planning on posting some modules on canvas along with some review materials for students,” he said. “In addition, the new AP classroom is a great resource for review and practice for students.”

In addition to the updated test, the College Board has also invested in a new method of learning for students to use while social distancing. They have put together a livestream schedule with free course review sessions for AP students. The schedule for these review sessions can be accessed here.

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