AP testing shifts to online format

Brooke Crocker sits down to take her AP Language and Composition test. — Brooke Crocker

After schools across the U.S. shifted in March to remote learning indefinitely, the College Board, which is responsible for all advanced placement (AP) exams, decided to host all AP exams online this year.

Over the past two weeks, AP students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) took 50-minute exams online, at home, where they answered one or two questions on their subject matter, and were able to use the Internet and their notes. For the most part, it went well. Many students enjoyed the shorter online format, although some had difficulties with the time frame and submitting work electronically.

As many schools did not have the opportunity to fully teach all the content due to the early school closure, the College Board decided not to test on certain units or topics in classes.

Since AP exams usually last between two and three hours, many students felt that the shortened time frame combined with less content coverage made the exam easier. Junior Ava Maggi, who took the AP World History Exam, said, “It was fine. I really liked that it was only [one] document-based question [as opposed to multiple-choice questions, free response, and a document-based question]. I feel like it took a lot of stress off.”

Junior Hope Bettencourt, who took both the AP English Language and Composition exam and AP World History exam, said, “I finished before my time was up, but I wish I had more time to write my essay.”

Junior Ciara Hoyt, who took the AP Environmental Science exam and the AP English Language and Composition exam, said, “It stressed me out a bit knowing that I had very limited time to answer the questions.”

Even though teachers had less time to fully teach the subject material, students felt prepared for their exams. Hope said, “Almost every essay I had to write for [AP English] was a rhetorical analysis, which was super-helpful [since that was a major focus in the curriculum before school closed].”

Ava said, “My [AP World History exam question] was about empires and religion between 1450 and 1750, which we went over a lot in class, and I was very glad for that.”

Vice Principal Jeremy Light feels the teachers at MVRHS really worked to prepare students for their exams. “I think our AP teachers were fantastic. They had their students as prepared as possible. They held extra sessions, and worked until the end. I was so impressed with the dedication to the students,” he said. “It was also nice to see the planning and progress in the courses were pretty close to where they needed to be, according to the College Board.

Naturally, students would love to see this trend of shorter standardized tests continue. Ciara said, “I think it benefited me to have a shorter test, with no detailed, multiple-choice questions.”

Other students look forward to returning to the normal format next year, since taking the exam online had its challenges. There were reports of students having trouble submitting photos of their work through the College Board website, and because this was the first time AP exams were completed online, it was difficult to anticipate obstacles.

Mr. Light said, “When problems did arise in real time, we didn’t have enough time, guidance, or information to troubleshoot. That was frustrating. The College Board was next to impossible to get ahold of when problems came up. They were limited on-helpers in the call center, due to the virus.”

Many students also simply missed the original format, which is the type of format with which they’d become most familiar: “I love taking tests with pencil and paper,” said Hope, “because I can mark it up however I want. So I missed that very much.”

Because students felt they were prepared to take these exams, they expect to do well on them. Hope said, “If I don’t do well, I will be very disappointed with myself.”