2020 AP Test Reflection--By Nina Gerardi
Among high schoolers, Advanced Placement (AP) students tend to plan for the future, studying now to save money and get ahead on earning college credit. Then COVID-19 struck, and College Board announced that the test was still on, but with major alterations.
Senior Cole Ferratt took three AP tests this year and has taken traditional AP tests in past years.
“It definitely is . . . a huge change from last year,” Ferratt said.
This change was meant to make AP testing more plausible for students. Some changes include making the tests all open-note, free response, online and 45 minutes.
Before, during and after their two testing weeks, some student reactions were positive, commending some of College Board’s decisions. Ferratt, for example, shares his liking of the different submission options offered on exam day.
“I really liked how there was an option to copy and paste your answers into the website because that made it way easier,” Ferratt said. “I know for me personally . . . I didn’t know how to download stuff as JPEGs. . . that was just confusing to me.”
College Board offered the option to copy-paste answers and upload a photo or other files. When students started having submission difficulties, they also offered another way to submit midway through the testing period: through email. If students emailed their test responses immediately after their exam was over, College Board would accept them.
“I think this is one of things they did right,” RB High Councilor and AP testing coordinator Natalie Curry said. “Adjusting to problems from the first week. . . . I was worried about their servers being able to handle the load. But they found a quick fix for the issues.”
However, with all these first-time changes, some students are concerned with the new online testing format. According to Curry, the biggest problem has been submitting answers.
Ferratt didn’t have submission problems, but many students weren’t as lucky.
“I’ve seen a bunch of people talking about how they weren’t able to submit stuff,” Ferratt said. “Like how they were trying to attach files and . . . the website actually wouldn’t let them attach anything . . . I just can’t imagine. I’d be so upset.”
On top of their emailing option, College Board also responded to submission difficulties by offering students to register for the AP tests in June. Curry believes that if students struggled to submit and requested a makeup, College Board would grant it. If students had difficulties like Wi-Fi malfunctions and disruptions in the household, they may also be able to request a makeup.
Though a shorter testing time was likely meant to ensure a more efficient and convenient testing experience, some students are also concerned if a 45-minute test really reflects their knowledge and abilities.
“I just don’t know if it’s going to be reflective,” Mavalankar said. “Normally, an AP course covers so many topics and units, but [these tests are] so short—it might've been too narrow.”
Fortunately, colleges seem to still be accepting this year’s scores despite this. According to College Board’s website, they’ve spoken to hundreds of institutions and are confident that the majority of Higher Ed institutions will award credit as they have in the past.
Mavalankar says that the score might be an accurate enough representation.
“I do wish the test . . . would have been able to cover more,” Mavalankar said. “But I do think this gave me a pretty fair representation of what I would maybe have scored in a normal year.”
College Board’s testing formats have also troubled some. Depending on the subject area, testing formats varied, and many of those format changes were revealed to students on exam day, not in advance.
For example, students of the AP Literature and Composition test and AP English and Composition test were not aware if they could annotate on their exams’ reading passages, and therefore, weren’t exactly sure how to practice for exam day.
“It was kind of frustrating that they didn’t even bother to tell us whether we could or couldn't annotate,” Mavalankar said. “It was kind of like guessing [how to practice] until the test actually happened.”
According to Mavalankar, College Board also surprised him on his AP Statistics and AP Physics test, when they tested him on more concept-based questions than he’d thought there would be.
“I wish they would have maybe made it more publicized [and] told ahead of time what the [formats] would be like,” Mavalankar said.
On their website, College’s Board communicated what units would be covered for each test and offered an AP test demo, which showed the general testing format of most AP tests. They also sometimes gave hints as to what the exam would look like on their Advanced Placement YouTube channel. However, to some students who didn’t think to look in certain places, it may not have been enough.
“I remember on the review lectures . . . they . . . did mention that the math will be slightly more conceptual and less actual math heavy,” Mavalankar said. “The problem was if you didn’t watch the review lectures, it wasn’t really said anywhere. They didn’t mention it on any [other] websites or on any review papers.”
Though some students may not have accessed them until later and it might have been helpful to have more, College Board did offer helpful resources like the YouTube channel and practice tests. Like Ferratt’s AP United States Government and Politics teacher, teachers often did well letting students know about material on the test. For many, test-taking was an overall success.
“I kind of liked this format,” Mavalankar said. “[It’s] way less stressful. . . Honestly, I feel like formats like these in the future would be very nice.”
Even with all the concerns AP testers have, College Board gave students different options and an efficient, less-stressful opportunity to earn credit for their future in these confusing times.