The Coronavirus has caused many changes to school systems and how students are required to operate. One such area that had a significant impact on students’ high school experience in 2020 was the new style of advanced placement (AP) testing. AP classes, and their corresponding exams, allow students to complete college-level courses while still in high school. In 2018, more than 2.8 million high schoolers took one or more AP exams in an attempt to earn college credit in various subjects ranging from Art to Calculus.
To accommodate the shelter in place orders that were enacted in the spring of 2020, the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees standardized testing in the United States, administered AP exams to students online in a modified format that was quite different from the testing of years past.
The New Format
Instead of the previous AP exam format that consisted of in-person tests comprised of multiple-choice questions and essay questions, students in 2020 wrote one or two essays (depending on the subject) on their personal computers or phones, or uploaded an image of a handwritten essay. This new method was a major shift and somewhat of a shock to both students and teachers, who had been preparing the majority of the school year for lengthy tests covering multiple formats and sections of their materials. The goal of this new format, though, was to gain an understanding of students’ knowledge of the subject through their ability to analyze information and explain concepts.
Melissa Blades, an AP English teacher at Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, California, said, “I’m glad College Board found a way to allow AP students to take their 2020 exams from home in a modified format, but there were, not surprisingly, many issues with technology, equal opportunity, and inconsistency.”
This raises a great point that even though there were multiple methods offered to submit essays for the AP tests, there were bound to be issues and inaccessibility concerns for some students. Moving forward, this format may not be the best option for all students, especially if it is the only method of testing available, as it was in 2020.
With the revised test format not presenting the same quantity or expression of student knowledge as before, it was a concern of both students and teachers that colleges may not accept the AP test scores of students who took the modified tests. Thankfully, many colleges announced that they would, in fact, take the AP test scores of students in 2020. On top of that, some colleges have announced that they will not require students to take standardized tests like the ACT or SAT, as the opportunities to take these tests were severely limited due to Coronavirus. Because of this, students do not have to fear for their acceptance based on tests that they did or did not take this year.
The AP exams offered this year had to be modified for the safety of students, but in the future, the spread of a deadly disease will hopefully not be a concern. However, as the College Board moves forward, it would be wise to consider revising the methods by which AP tests are administered, should another situation arise requiring students to take their tests remotely. In other words, the AP testing of the future may not be a repeat of what it was this year, but the College Board can certainly draw some inspiration from both the failures and successes of the AP tests of 2020.