With many changes being made to standardized testing this year to accommodate for COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, the highly anticipated AP exams are no exception. This year, the College Board is offering multiple test dates and formats for students to take their exams. Between early May and mid-June, there are three testing dates available for each subject.
Director of School Counseling Erin Craven commented that “The National Organization of College Board tried to meet students and school districts where they are at, in a very tumultuous, unusual school year.” In her 15 years of experience, there are more options for AP exams this year than there ever have been in the past. She believes that in creating all these new options, the College Board’s hope was “to create exam options for all students across the globe,” in order to be accommodating for the different learning or health situations they may be in.
The first option will be administered in school May 3-7, 10-12, 14, and 17, entirely on paper. The second administration dates are May 18-21 and 24-28, with half of the subjects being on paper and pencil and half being full-length digital exams, taken either at home or in school. On June 1-4 and 7-11, most of the exams will be digital and administered at home or in school.
Digital exams will be the same length as traditional paper and pencil exams and will include both multiple-choice and free-response questions, with some specific subjects asking for more or less. Since there are a number of different subjects, their content and requirements may vary. For the most up-to-date and specific information, visit the College Board website.
AP U.S. History teacher Michelle Filer remarked that while the different test options “have made it hard for [her] to tell when exactly [her] students are taking their exams,” she is also glad that they have that option to choose between the beginning of June and the first week of May, since they are “always pressed for time,” more so this year with classes starting two weeks later than usual.
Craven stated that the “pace and rigour of an AP course demands 180 face-to-face school days,” which was not a possibility for Malden High students this year. The teachers have had to adapt to an entirely remote schedule, while also dealing with the fact that the College Board and AP have not loosened many of their guidelines or curriculum requirements.
From an administration perspective, going from one set testing date and time to three sets of exams in two different formats, “just layers the complexity,” said Craven. Despite that, it is more important “to meet students and faculty where they are and give them what they need, as best [they] can.”
Schools and AP teachers do not have to pick one testing window or format for all their students, they are allowed to request for a mix of at-home and in-person exams, and mix testing dates this year. The later dates can also be used as makeup dates for students who have conflicts or experienced disruptions during earlier administrations of the exam. However, most schools have dictated a timeline for their students and staff, whereas Malden High is making efforts to “maintain a student-centered approach.” In order to achieve this, Craven has been busy working with the faculty at Malden High to determine the best date, time, and format for “each class, each subject, and each student” on an individual level.
Disruptions are just one of the concerns that students find themselves worrying about this year. On top of all the stress that comes with preparing for the exam, junior Leslie Rodriguez expressed that “internet and computer issues are [her] two major concerns.” For junior Jasmine Luc, who is taking AP World History and AP Literature, she is scared about not having enough time to answer all the required questions and essays, and to “think twice about what [she puts] down.”
AP exams have always been known to be fast-paced, but with all the added pressures this year, it can create a stressful environment for students, potentially affecting their performance. Filer agrees that the new formatting will affect students’ performance, but “hopefully in positive ways.” She thinks that this year has “underscored the fact that testing is not the ultimate measure of a student’s capabilities,” and that there are more important matters to be concerned about than the exam. Students should keep in mind that no one will see their results unless they choose to share them, as they are not required at colleges or on applications.
Still, Filer has been “very impressed by the resilience of [her] students” and for staying organized throughout the year, and she hopes “they are proud of what they have already accomplished.” According to Craven, at the end of the day, the exam “theoretically represents the culmination of the learning and knowledge” of the course, “so as crazy as it sounds, sit down and try to enjoy the process of showing what you’ve learned.”
Similarly, Filer wanted students to recognize that even with all the hard work they have done this year, “no exam can accurately measure what they have learned and how much they have persevered” in these trying times.