The 2021 AP Exams Disregard Our Distress

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Nadia Razzaq

AP European History Teacher Todd Beach lectures students on the subject of World War II. AP Classroom provides course-level resources that comply with units being taught.

Log into your AP Classroom and dust off your prep books. The AP exams are approaching after a school year of instability. 

Those who have enrolled in AP courses solely for college credit must be given the opportunity to take the exams in a safe, functional environment. A portion of participants will utilize digital exams, with the exception of certain AP courses that require in-person exams. Yet the lack of confidence in a digital environment must be vocalized. 

The College Board has chosen three exam administration periods that span from the start of May to mid-June. Preparation time is crucial to the success of any exam. Students who study in 20 to 50-minute increments over a longer period of time perform the best on exams. Administration one, the first testing period, is strictly for in-school exams from May 3 through May 17. This may put in-person individuals at a disadvantage with a shorter preparation time given.

The college board offers administration windows to maintain synchronous exams. The three windows aim to secure security and leave room for make-up exam dates.
(Marco Learning)

Exams are expected to remain the same length as years prior, tying students to desks for a whopping two to three hours that consist of multiple sections on content that may have been overlooked during distance learning. A loss of instructional minutes will come into play for the outcome of the exams as well. 

Reflecting back, the complications of the 2020 AP Exams cannot be ignored. The 45-minute exams, although shorter, were interrupted by the inability to submit answers for approximately 1% of 2.2 million students. The seemingly small percentage makes for 22,000 students in despair. These technical difficulties prompted a class-action lawsuit against the College Board, which did not accept accountability for its faults. The College Board has a past of sharing student data, causing even more outrage against the nonprofit company

Students meet online challenges daily when logging onto classes, yet it can be even more frustrating when these challenges arise during such a significant exam. A longer testing period will not ease these frustrations. Administration windows will be offered as makeups if answers are lost, yet this year’s exams claim that students can continue if the internet connection drops momentarily. 

Online security in comparison to in-person proctoring raises even more questions on the integrity of the exam. The digital exams obliterate the method that teachers have taught us from a young age: go back and check your work. An inability to revisit questions once moving on will no longer permit the thoughtful reflection that we have been taught to utilize.

Not to mention, in-person exams will be proctored throughout the totality of the exam, but digital exams will only require students to check-in 30 minutes prior to the exam in preparation. A lack of supervision may damage the validity of digital exams. Synchronous start times for the exam around the world supposedly prove that cheating will not occur. This will not guarantee security of resources being utilized offline. 

Nearly all AP exams in 2020 had scores of three or above. Although this is promising, it must be noted how content and time were consolidated during the 2020 exam due to a couple of months out of the classroom.

The College Board hosts a presentation guiding AP students on how to prepare for a digital environment. Students may begin the process of preparation for the exam on April 8, followed by continuous resources prior. (College Board)

 A huge majority of participants in the 2021 exams have endured an entire school year with a form of virtual learning, yet the same flexibility given last year won’t be provided. The quantity of information and hours put into the exams does not reflect the quality of knowledge attained. 

Facing opposition to the 2021 AP exams, the College Board has responded by offering refunds without a fee. Additionally, if you finish the AP exam and feel that you performed poorly, you have until June 15 to cancel your exam from being released. If there is one resource to rely on prior to the AP exams, it would be the resources being posted in AP classroom which began on April 8. 

The College Board has seemingly done it again and ignored the utmost concerns that are causing thousands of students to panic. The difference between testing experiences will come into play, alongside the lack of adaptations made to the exam this year that totally disregard the needs of students.