At-Home AP Testing: Pass or Fail?

Exams were shortened and secured for completion at home, though some AP students experienced difficulty with the submission procedure.


photo from USA Today

For AP students this year, the College Board's accommodations made quarantined test-taking easier, but the rollout was not without its flaws.

By Anjana Suresh, North Allegheny Senior High School

The end of this school year has not been normal by any means. Both students and teachers were forced to quickly adjust to remote learning. For students taking AP exams, the new and shortened online exam format added another element of uncertainty.

“Spending the whole year mentally preparing for testing in a rigorous environment only to have a year dwindled down to one or two questions definitely was a shock at first,” junior Jenny Zhu said. “Eventually I got used to the concept, but that definitely made me more anxious about the tests than I had to be.” 

When the College Board announced that the tests would be 45 minutes and entirely open-ended, there were some concerns among students. 

“I felt like there would be so little leeway in terms of what I could miss in order to get the score I wanted, and it was interesting figuring out how to prepare myself for a completely different test than I thought I would be taking,” Zhu added. 

However, in retrospect, students did feel that AP testing was less of a burden this year.

Junior Daniel Schaub thought the shortened exams were “way nicer compared to the normal three hours.”

Schaub added that the College Board “made the right decision to make the tests shorter, because I would not have been able to keep my attention on the test for much longer.” 

Senior Nishka Edlabadkar felt the same way, mentioning that her Psych exam “was pretty easy, and it was what I was expecting.”

Senior Caroline Mura shared similar sentiments.

“This year’s tests were much less stressful since they were over so much more quickly,” Mura said. “Not having to do the multiple choice made the tests easier.  I’d much rather write the short answers and show what I know that way.”

This year’s [AP] tests were much less stressful since they were over so much more quickly.”

— Caroline Mura, senior

Schaub didn’t have any major problems with the online format, though he thought the timer on the bottom of the screen “made the test a bit more stressful, but it was nice to have so you could pace yourself.”

Edlabadkar said she felt a little nervous.

“My response took forever to submit after I hit the button, though it did upload in time,” she said.

However, other the technology issues students experienced were far worse. 

Trevor Packer, Vice President of the AP program, tweeted that around 1,000 had trouble submitting their response out of the 50,000 that took the Physics C exam on the second day of AP testing. The retake was the only option for students who had trouble submitting work for the first week, but the following week, students were allowed to submit work to an email address provided after the exam. Due to test security and fairness, work for exams from the previous week was not allowed to be emailed in. 

Senior Katherine Gao was unable to send in her work for her AP Lit exam, saying “It was really frustrating, because in my opinion, the essay I wrote was one of the best analyses I’d written all year. It was upsetting, to say the least, to know that I’d have to retake it with a different prompt.” 

The College Board required that students download an app on their phone for those taking language exams, but that presented another set of issues.

Senior Ainsley Ferron said, “The audio was messed up on my French exam. Some of it was playing out of the speaker on my phone and some played out of my headphones, but then the volume automatically turned down on my headphones, so I missed half of the question.”

Zhu didn’t experience any submission issues, but she definitely felt for others who did.

“I can’t help but be mad for my friends whose work wasn’t able to submit and the added stress that they have to go through to prepare for another test,” she said. 

Additionally, students with testing accommodations needed to have those approved ahead of time, but the online system made it harder to do so. 

Ferron explained that she has extended time, which she was able to get on her other tests “with no problem, but for some reason, [the College Board] claimed that my disability portal wasn’t updated and I couldn’t get the extended time on the French test.”

She didn’t feel completely out of luck, though. She still has the opportunity to receive a score by taking the retake exam.

“It was a big relief that they’re allowing me to do the makeup,” she said. 

Gao had concerns for the retake.

“The exam might be a little harder, and so I might not perform as well,” she said.

The retake exams are scheduled for the week of June 1st. Hopefully, the process will run smoothly and students will be able to receive the credit they’ve worked all year for.

This story was originally published on The Uproar on June 1, 2020.