Untried, but Tested

AP tests this year are going to look different from years past.

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photo by Emma Kim

AP prep books may be in especially high demand this year, as students prepare for an entirely new exam administration.

Emma Kim, Staff Writer

Imagine it’s 2019. It’s AP week. Students fret over their three-plus hour exams, and they are expected to sit for each test the day of. The stress is palpable but not unexpected, as AP tests have never been taken any other way.

Those were the days, it turns out, as the College Board recently announced significant changes to this year’s administration.

While in 2020, AP exams were taken in an adjusted format, 2021 exams will be full-length, but this time the College Board is offering a plethora of testing dates.  

The testing dates are split into Administration 1, 2, and 3 that schools can choose. Administration 1’s dates are May 3-7, 10-12, 14, and 17 and will feature the traditional paper and pencil exams for all AP subjects.  

Administration 2 dates, scheduled between May 18-21 and 24-28, are where things start to differ. Half of these will be traditional paper and pencil exams in-person, while the other half will be full-length digital exams that are a mix of in-school and at-home. 

Administration 3’s dates are June 1-4 and 7-11 and will be mostly digital exams that can be taken at school or at home.

The accommodations, based largely on the need for social distancing are plentiful, but not all students are finding them fair.  

I do not think it’s fair to treat the test completely normally when this year definitely hasn’t been normal.”

— Lauren Haywood, senior

“I definitely don’t feel totally prepared the way I was for past AP tests. Online learning, while it has its perks, is not my style,” senior Lauren Haywood explained. “I retain information a lot better when I’m learning in the classroom. I think this is something that the CollegeBoard should have taken into account when creating the test. I do not think it’s fair to treat the test completely normally when this year definitely hasn’t been normal.”

Senior Katrina Evancho also finds the AP tests this year to disadvantage students who actually take them in-person.

“I feel prepared to take a full-length AP test, but if the two forms [paper and digital] are supposed to be similar, what’s to stop someone from cheating at home?”

Although senior Mark Zaccardi does not like the new testing format, he understands the necessary measures taken by the College Board. 

“I do not think that it is totally fair, but I do not see a better way around giving the tests. In the online AP tests last year, the altered form did not measure what people learned effectively,” he said.  

Student concerns about the upcoming exams are ramping up, but it’s unlikely that the College Board will revise its policy.

“Some of the [AP] concepts took much longer to be explained because it was harder for students to understand without seeing the teacher in person,” said senior Alexandra Cheung. “Therefore, students should be given certain testing accommodations to compensate for this year’s challenges.”

Since most students across the country had to learn primarily online this year, senior Hanson Wu believes that the test should be the same.

“We are used to learning and testing online now,” Wu said. “If we have to take AP tests in person, it won’t accurately reflect our knowledge since we will not be taking them through a method we’re used to.”

Whether students end up taking a digital or paper test at home or in person, this year of AP tests will be a learning experience for everyone involved.