By Dan Shapiro
After schools across the country have temporarily shut down and others have moved to online learning for the remainder of the year, the College Board, the organization which sponsors AP classes and exams, has made an unprecedented decision to move all AP exams to an modified, online format which can be taken at home. This is an attempt to abide by social distancing guidelines and provide students the opportunity to receive college credit for their hard work throughout the year. As this is a drastic change to what high school test takers are accustomed, I hope to address many of students' and parents' questions and concerns in a Q&A format.
When will the exams take place?
After surveying teachers, the College Board concluded that it is best to hold exams while course content is still fresh with students. Because of this, exams will take place from May 11th to May 22nd. Furthermore, to ensure flexibility in these unprecedented circumstances, each subject will have a makeup date scheduled from June 1st to June 5th.
What is the general format of the modified exams?
Each exam varies slightly by subject, but as a rule of thumb, each exam lasts approximately 40-45 minutes and consists exclusively of free responses. For example, the Language and Literature exams will each consist of one analysis essay which will last 45 minutes.This is in sharp contrast to previously administered exams which lasted upwards of three hours and included both multiple choice and free responses.
What content will the exams cover?
Although each course follows a unique curriculum, it seems that generally content covered through mid-March (when most schools began to close) will be assessed on the exam. Any course content which was supposed to be covered afterwards will not be assessed, in an effort to be as far as possible to all students. For many courses, this means that the content of the last unit or two will not be included on the exam.
How will the exams’ integrity be protected?
As all exams are taking place at home, there is no way to ensure that students do not reference notes, textbooks, and other resources; therefore, all exams will be open note, meaning that students are allowed to access these materials to assist them during the exam. Nevertheless, “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,” according to the College Board’s website. Furthermore, anyone who attempts to exchange answers with fellow test takers or cheat through other means will have their scores cancelled, have disciplinary action taken against them, and will not be able to take future College Board Administered exams. Plagiarism will be checked by digital algorithms and -- new to this year -- giving teachers a copy of the exam to check for inconsistencies to students' previous work in the class.
Will colleges accept credit for these modified exams, similarly to how they have treated previous exams?
Yes, colleges have long valued the ability of AP exams to determine a student's understanding of course curriculum, and they have not stated that this is going to change.