AP exams are still expected to run smoothly despite different testing formats


Graphic by Zoe Tseng

The high school will be participating in the second administration period of AP exams, with a mix of online and in-person exams. The test dates range from May 18-28.

As the light at the end of the tunnel brightens, the mental sprint to Advanced Placement (AP) exams comes into play. Every student and teacher is wondering how the College Board will accommodate for a majority remote school year.

The College Board has acknowledged the shift in teaching and is offering three administration dates for the 2020-2021 AP exams. The high school has opted for the second administration period, with test dates from May 18-28. Despite differences in this year’s tests, AP exams are still expected to run smoothly.

AP coordinators Kate Kennedy and Alexia Thomas said the main reason for the later test administration dates is to give teachers more time to prepare their students for the exams.

“It’s been hard for teachers to get to all the content they need to and students to absorb it all. So being able to administer exams two weeks later allowed for us to take in what teachers and students were saying so they didn’t feel as rushed,” Kennedy said.

The second administration also allows for a combination of in-person and online tests. Thomas said hand-written exams that require people to show work are in-person this year.

“Last year there were some hiccups with uploading pictures, so you’ll notice that those exams like AP Calculus and Chemistry, that you have to write out answers, those are the ones in person,” Thomas said.

The exams that require writing and are more easily typed, like essays or free response questions, are online this year. Thomas said she does not think this will negatively affect the administering of exams.

“A lot of exams last year went smoothly because they can be easily done virtually. English and history exams, those are all writing and typing, so I think on the College Board side they will go more smoothly and we have more experience with this now,” Thomas said. “We’re in pretty good shape.”

Assistant Head of School Hal Mason said that despite there being a combination of in-person and online exams, students don’t have the option to pick an in-person or online exam.

“Generally they do not get to choose. Some of the exams are decidedly in school and some are only available online,” Mason said.

Another factor that contributed to picking the second administration was the number of seniors taking AP exams.

“Seniors obviously graduate fairly early on June 6, and there’s admissions dates that are actually after graduation. We’re not going to use those because most of our exams are for seniors, and that’s just not fair to the seniors,” Thomas said.

Kennedy said that due to the different school year with many students learning remotely, the College Board is offering free preparation materials for the AP exams this year.

“Any student, when they sign up for the AP exam on the College Board, will have access to the AP classroom for the specific AP tests they’re taking. That’s a good place to get resources, study, be able to prepare,” Kennedy said.

If students are still not feeling prepared for the exams this year, Kennedy recommends they reach out to their teachers, as they are most familiar with the format of the exam. Kennedy said the College Board will most likely modify the exams to make up for a slower paced school year.

“I know the College Board is well aware of , and although they are offering the full length exam, I definitely know they are very aware that this year has been different,” Kennedy said. “I do think they are taking that into consideration in creating their exams.”

Some courses, like the AP Physics classes, combine two years of curriculum into one class and therefore have two AP exams. If classes are unable to cover all of the material this year, students may be forced to cancel their second exams.

According to senior Andrew Yang, who takes AP Physics 1&2, his teacher told the class to cancel their second test.

“I think it’s slightly unfortunate because we’re not getting through all the stuff. Personally, I’m not planning on going into that kind of thing, so I think it affects me less than someone who is already set on doing something to do with physics with science,” Yang said. “I feel like some European schools have requirements on APs before you get into the school, and that would suck having to study by yourself just to do the test.”

Yang cancelled both of his exams because his college only accepts AP credit for AP Physics if students take both sets of tests. However, students will get a full refund as long as they cancel their exams before the test date.

Mason agreed that because everyone is in the same boat this year, the exam will recognize people are less prepared. Mason said students should not feel more stressed about taking the exams this year compared to any other year.

“People spend a lot of time studying and preparing for it and are nervous before they go into the exams because they are hard exams, so I don’t think people should feel nervous in any different way than they would in other years,” Mason said. “Sometimes that nervousness is good in that it’s preparing you for something that is a difficult exam.”