Online AP Exams

Writer: Clara H.

Visual: Kiana H.

Editor: Gisele F.

AP Exams are subject-specific standardized tests offered by the College Board. They take place in May every year and are usually taken by students who take the AP course. ISM offers three AP courses: Human Geography, English Literature and Composition, and US History. 

Usually, AP exams are composed of a multiple choice section and a free response question section and the exams are 2-3 hours long. However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of cancelling the exam, AP decided to pull through with them by offering online exams. Although it differs by subjects a little, the online exam lasts 45 minutes – 1 hour long and consists of only free response questions with no multiple choice questions. For example, the originally 3 hours long AP English Literature exam – with 55 multiple choice questions for 1 hour and 3 free response questions (essay writing) for 2 hours- changed to a 40 minutes test with only one free response question.  

The shortened exams led to concerns about whether the exam can accurately assess and reflect students’ understandings and skills about the subject. Catherine S. (junior) took the AP Calculus test a few days ago and she said “I don’t think the exam can accurately reflect student’s skills because the test for calculus only had 2 questions. I think it’s hard to evaluate someone’s math skills with just 2 questions.” On the other hand, Nicole R. (sohpomore) who took the AP Literature and AP US History test this year said “I think it does [accurately reflect] because the same content and skills that we have been learning all year are being tested. I just tried to adjust my studying to the rubric.”

Since students could take the tests at home, the College Board officially announced that this year’s tests are open-note. However, the test questions were designed so that answers could not be found in textbooks nor online. Nicole continued about her thoughts on this year’s exam by saying “I think that the open notes are helpful but that there isn’t time to take the test and just rely on notes, it’s important to have background knowledge in your head-  in other words it’s very important to study”. 

In order to prevent leakage of questions and cheating, the tests were all held at the same time worldwide. This caused problems of students in Asia having to take the test at times past midnight, some even at 5am. When asked about how taking the AP Literature exam at 2am was, Maxine Z. (sophomore) said “I drank matcha to stay awake, but still, I know I made mistakes that I wouldn’t have made if I was more awake”. To adjust to the time difference, Nicole said “I went to bed late (11pm) and woke up really early (5am) the day before the test. On the day of the test, I went to bed around  7:30pm to wake up at 1am. I then took a cold shower, listened to music, jumped around and took a few deep breaths. By then I was pretty excited and pumped with adrenaline to just go and do the test because I know that in 1 hour all of this will be over and it’s my final hoorah!”

Best of luck for all those who took the AP exam. AP is also offering a make-up test in June for those who might have faced problems such as internet connection issues, so if you are one, make sure to take this opportunity!