Editorial: Re-designed AP exams are a disservice to students

Due to nationwide school closures because of COVID- 19, the College Board has decided to make big changes to all Advanced Placement (AP) Exams this year. The basic changes are that the three-hour-long tests made up of multiple-choice and free-response questions have been modified for an online 45-minute free-response exam. 

This is a problem. Students have been preparing all year for a traditional AP Exam and the College Board decides to completely change the format of all tests instead of canceling the exams like the International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams. Even the April ACT was rescheduled for June, and the May and July SATs have been cancelled.

The new format will no longer be able to properly test a student’s understanding of the information as there is only one essay question for exams like history and English and two free response questions on science and language exams. 

An example of how much these exams have changed would be world language exams like AP French or AP Spanish. The exams typically consist of a multiple-choice section that tests reading and listening comprehension and a free-response section which includes reading and responding to an email, writing an essay, recording a simulated conversation, and a spoken comparison of a certain aspect of culture between one’s own community and a community speaking the target language. The exams now only consist of the two spoken portions, the conversation and cultural comparison. This does not assess a student’s understanding and mastery of the target language nearly as well as the old exam. 

While AP Exams this year are clearly not ideal, there are a few upsides to these modified exams. The College Board has stated that most colleges will still accept the scores from these online exams and will continue to give credit in the same way as past years. Finally, the exams will only test on information that most classes should have covered before nationwide shutdowns in mid-March. This means students will need to know less content for the exams. 

All AP Exams will be drastically different due to this global pandemic. The tests do have some modifications that seem very fair to accommodate the effects of the shutdown. But, students will not effectively be tested on their knowledge of the material, but instead of one or two free response questions to cover almost a year’s worth of information. 

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