Due to shelter–in–place orders, it was impossible for schools to host traditional standardized exams in-person. The Regents exams in New York and the SAT testing dates for May and June were cancelled. However, the College Board decided to give AP exams in an unprecedented online format.
Usually an AP exam is about two or three hours long, consisting of various multiple-choice and free-response questions. This year’s online AP exams were only 45 minutes and were completely open–note. While a shorter test seems like it could be less of a burden, some students found the shorter time to be more challenging.
“The restricted time frame on the online test didn’t allow us to check over our work, so it really tested how fast we’re able to do something,” said junior Brianna H.
In addition, there was much controversy surrounding these exams because many students faced struggles of not being able to submit their tests on the online portal. Despite successfully completing the trial a few days earlier, when it came to submit their answers on the actual testing date, many students could not complete the process.
When students who had technical difficulties reached out to the College Board, they were told their only recourse was to take the exam again on a makeup date a few weeks later. Students and their parents were outraged that they had to retake an entire exam and deal with the stress of preparing again.
In response to the situation, the College Board insisted that very few students were unable to submit their answers. However, anecdotal evidence and social media postings make it seem as though the problems were more prevalent than the College Board has suggested.
The College Board released the following statement: “After the first few days of testing, our data show the vast majority of students successfully completed their exams, with less than 1 percent unable to submit their responses.”
Although there were issues for some students, others who were able to easily submit their AP exams were content with the change. Some students appreciated that the College Board still held the exams so they had an opportunity to demonstrate their hard work.
“In the end I’m glad that they still held the exams because of the effort everyone puts into preparing for these exams,” said junior George L.
Although many students were able to complete the AP exams online without issues, the technical problems some students experienced with the online AP tests was one factor in the College Board’s decision to not give SAT exams online. At first, the College Board had proposed developing a digital version of the SAT to be administered in the fall if students were not able to take the exams in their schools due to COVID-19 regulations. However, the College Board announced in early June that they were no longer considering this option as a result of the technical challenges presented by giving an online test.
For the millions of students who take AP and SAT exams every year, COVID-19 has added an additional source of stress to a step which is already anxiety-producing for many students. While some students felt they benefited from the COVID related alterations to the AP exam, for many students, taking the exam online was another large adjustment in a sea of change. 🔳