College Board Updates AP Exams

Peyton Smith, Sports Editor

The College Board continues to update the 2020 at-home AP exams as they develop new tests to distribute to students in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 AP exams are shorter, focused on the content covered when schools are in session, and not limited to scores of 3, 4, and 5. The College Board announced that the credits are supported by colleges.

April 3, the College Board released an update changing the exam format. The test dates of May 11-22 remain the same, with tests being at home and open book. The makeup test dates will take place June 1-5. The format of the exams shifted into 45-minute tests with a 5 minute uploading period. The shortened time is to lessen the chances of cheating according to the Princeton Review. The test is taken on any device or written by hand and submitted. The original AP exams took one and a half to three and a quarter hours to complete. 

April 28, the College Board released an email to students wishing to take AP exams offering new information. The email included an exam day checklist to have by your side during the exam for personal information regarding your test identification. The week of May 4 is AP prep week and the College Board will continue to offer review sessions and sample questions on its website. Additionally, there will be “explainer videos” which will allow students the opportunity to learn more about the exam format. May 4, students will be able to practice submissions to avoid technical difficulties on the day of the exam. Two days prior to the exam, students will receive an exam ticket. 

According to the College Board, 5.1 million students participated in the 2019 AP exams. Prior AP exams had a combination of multiple-choice, free-response questions, essays, submissions, and speaking activities. Most exams have been formatted to have solely free-response questions; however, the College Board has released specific information about  each exam on its website. For example, the AP Calculus exam will be two free response questions and no multiple-choice questions. The AP Spanish exam will be two speaking activities and no free response questions. 

World language exams will consist of speaking activities on a downloadable application. All of the language exams will be taken on a phone on the AP World Languages Exam App (WLEA). Laptops will not be able to be used. The app will be available on May 11. 

The College Board released an AP schedule and stated that no new registration is allowed and that all tests will be taken at the same date and time worldwide. All students will take the same test at the same time to prevent further problems. However, this means that students in Hong Kong will be taking their AP exams at midnight. “I’ve heard of people in Asia being scheduled to take them at 3 a.m. and as any high schooler could tell you, people aren’t usually capable of their best intellectual work in the middle of the night. They normally administer multiple versions of the exam anyway, so I don’t see why they can’t have other forms to administer in Asia and Europe at more reasonable hours,” senior Lauren Owens said. 

Additionally, they announced that despite the drastic changes to the exam format, there is no bell curve for scoring. In the past, the exams were graded by giving a percentage of students a 5, a percentage of students a 4, and so on. This year, all students who earn a score of 3, 4, or 5 can receive credit for their college-level work. 

In addition to test changes, the College Board also made changes to better support students preparing for the exams. The College Board is offering complimentary review classes hosted by expert AP teachers on YouTube, as well as practice free-response questions. This is a link to view live AP review courses

Changes in the exam format are sparking concern with exam security. According to the College Board, “The exam format and questions are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online. However, you may not consult with any other individuals during the testing period”. The College Board has stated that if students are caught cheating not only will the exam scores be canceled, but high schools and colleges will be notified and they will be prohibited from taking any College Board exams including the SAT. 

The College Board is working to uphold the integrity of the exams to successfully award students college credit. According to The Princeton Review the AP Exams will be proctored with a live person watching us as we take the exam. There is also speculation that the College Board will record our IP address and digital record of the exam. The Princeton Review also stated that the College Board will detect handwriting changes, students off-camera, differences in scores from class to the exam, and plagiarism. “I’ve heard about the College Board potentially utilizing computer cameras to detect motion in the room to see if other people are present. That being said, as far as I know most AP tests are open book this year, so having a textbook or notes on hand will not be cheating,” Owens said. 

“None of us would say that we are confident that a 3 or 4 or 5 on the AP exam this year means the same thing as a 3, 4 and 5 on the exam last year,” Harvard University’s Andrew Ho, an expert on the reliability of educational tests, said in an NPR article by Carrie Jung. Despite the statement from the College Board stating that colleges are in full support of the shortened exams, the NPR article on ‘The questions of fairness’ stated that some colleges plan on changing their policies. Currently, the AP exams contain a lot of uncertainty.