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This Year’s Alternative Testing Method: Online AP Exams

By: Blake Taylor

The coronavirus has brought many unprecedented changes into our lives, especially regarding schools and the education system as a whole. In mid-March, the closure of schools and the shift to online distance learning has turned the worlds of many upside down. Many adjustments need to be made to fit the new learning system, including the administration of College Board’s AP exams. Each year, students sign up for AP classes to challenge themselves and learn through a new perspective. The learning year for AP students is wrapped up with one AP test given in mid-May that covers that curriculum learned throughout the year. The closure of schools was concerning because many AP classes did not finish covering material that would be tested on May’s exam. Soon after, the College Board released the many changes they would make to accommodate students taking the 2020 AP exams.

The College Board’s approach was to give 45 minute online exams with 1-2 long answer questions for most exams (this does not include classes such as AP Capstone and AP Computer Science as they had different formats that better fit their classes). To prevent cheating, the written questions were based on applying content in a real-life context rather than simply testing facts from the class. For most classes, they also cut some topics out of the exam, so students who did not finish learning these units in the classroom would still be able to successfully complete the exam. The College Board also allowed the tests to be open-book and allowed the use of notes from class because they realized all this information would be easily accessible while testing from home. The guidelines of 2020’s AP exams were very different from the usual exams AP students are used to taking, and it was definitely a significant adjustment for all involved.

As I took two formal online AP exams and had to do an online submission of a paper for a different AP class, I can say that it was a very different experience than that of past years. Being tested on a year’s worth of material in 45 minutes was stressful, but it was overall the most feasible way for the College Board to test AP students under these unusual circumstances. Hopefully, next year’s testing can resume as normal as the original AP exams are a better way to test the knowledge and material learned throughout the year.