Shortened AP Exams yield contrasting opinions

Shortened AP Exams yield contrasting opinions

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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, AP students all across the country were suddenly restricted to taking their 2020 AP classes and exams online, resulting in the exam being changed from their traditional three-hour format to a single 45-minute essay.

Initially, students may have been relieved by the prospect of avoiding multiple three-hour exams. Junior Jack Parsons said, “I felt that the change in format for the AP exams was a little alleviating in the sense that it was shorter and easier to take them. I also liked that I didn’t need to go anywhere to take them and could do it in my kitchen.”

However, students realized quickly that their scores would likely not accurately reflect their year’s worth of knowledge of AP content. Parsons said, “After taking the exam I felt immense stress realizing that my entire score now rested on one or two essays instead of four sections. I realized that every paragraph was essentially a point on the exam. This stressed me out and made me anxious about my results.”

Administering the AP exams online led to serious challenges for students, and College Board’s responses were usually inadequate. Apart from the exam being administered as a 45-minute essay, the fact that they were administered online also had consequences for students who lack internet access. College Board suggested that these students take the exam in a McDonald’s parking lot. In addition, many students were unable to submit their responses, and College Board’s only remedy for this was to suggest taking the make-up test in June, despite the fact that the make-up test dates coincided with other exams.

With regard to scores, AP US History teacher Kraig Bauer said, “I think our average went down from 4.17 to a 3.97, and part of that is because they did the DBQ, which is one of the toughest parts of the test. They took the toughest part of the test and used that as the benchmark. I can understand why they did it, but I think that combined with the last nine weeks before the test not being in school affected scores as well.”

What I feel was unfortunate was that there was little balance in the scoring, where the multiple choice would be balanced off the writing and it would have given us a clearer picture of what the student knew and was able to accomplish. Allowing the grade to be based solely on the student writing gave a good reflection of each student’s ability.”

— Jeffrey Benya

While some students feel as though their scores were heavily affected by the change in format, evidence may prove otherwise. With regards to how the change in format changed results, AP World History teacher Jeffrey Benya said, “I believe the scores were similar for the most part to what the students would have received if they had taken the regular exam. What I feel was unfortunate was that there was little balance in the scoring, where the multiple choice would be balanced off the writing and it would have given us a clearer picture of what the student knew and was able to accomplish. Allowing the grade to be based solely on the student writing gave a good reflection of each student’s ability. I am glad they did not cancel the test, which would have been disappointing considering the preparation throughout the year.”