AP adjustments: explaining the new exam

THE UNITED STATES- Students across America have been diligently working, studying, and preparing all year for their AP exams so that they may receive college credits. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19 causing most schools in the country to shut down and assign students work to complete at home, the College Board considered canceling the exams until they surveyed 18,000 students and found that 91% still desired to take the test. The College Board complied with the students’ demands and were left with the tedious task of redesigning the exams so they would be suitable to administer in a home environment. But what changes did they approve, and how different do they make the test in comparison to the original? How are students to alter their mindset and prepare for this new exam before the time comes to take it?

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that is responsible for creating a variety of tests, including the AP, SAT, ACT, PSAT, and CLEP exams. The Advanced Placement program describes college-level classes that are taught by teachers at high schools; most classes are worth three credits, but they last for two semesters instead of one. To gain these credits, students must earn an acceptable score on the AP examination that is administered at the end of the second semester in May and is graded on a five-point scale. There are currently 38 different AP courses that are available for students to enroll in, so each test has its own special criteria that students must fulfill in order to receive points. Nevertheless, the majority of the exams had quite a few factors in common, such as the tests typically lasting 2-3 hours, part one being multiple-choice, and part two consisting of free-response questions. Previously, points for the two aforementioned sections were awarded, and a student’s final sum resulted from the combination of the two parts, the goal being to obtain a perfect score of a five.

The regular testing plan is now being tossed aside, though, for an entirely new format was recently established so that students can complete the exam while under quarantine. For this 2020 test, students will be provided with a 45-minute exam that consists solely of free-response questions, with some subjects having merely one essay. Additionally, the content eligible for the test is now significantly smaller; only material that was able to be covered through March before school closings will be present on test day. The College Board has even acknowledged the fact that students will have access to their books while taking the exam, so the free-response questions have been structured to require analysis that goes beyond the text. Trevor Packer, senior vice president for the AP program, has also made it prevalent that cheating of any form will not be tolerated, for the College Board has poured funds into anti-plagiarism resources that will be used on exams to check for the copying and pasting of internet sources or information that was provided by an individual who was not the designated test-taker (an older sibling or friend who typed the response). Also, to ensure the integrity of the exam, all tests for a particular course will be offered at the same time worldwide to prevent the leaking of any information that could provide an unfair advantage to some students over others. There will be two testing dates (a regular date in May and a make-up date in June), but students are encouraged to take the exam on the first date possible because, if they opt for the make-up date in June and experience technical difficulties, there will not be another time to retake the test (except the following May). Though this is undoubtedly a great deal of facts to absorb in one sitting, it is crucial that students be made aware of these changes so that they will have time to adjust themselves accordingly and recognize both the proper and improper exam conduct.

For the most part, the rubrics for the 2020 AP exams will remain the same as they have been in previous years; there are some slight alterations that have been made, but this has been done to increase the likelihood of finishing the test in the allotted time period. The exams will be scored in a psychometric manner, meaning point values for the free-response questions and score translations will be figured out after the testing window has closed and all student materials have been submitted. As for final results, students will receive their AP scores in early July if they take the test on the first date available; students who take the June exam can expect their scores to be released anywhere from late-July to early-August. Acceptable scores can then be sent to colleges where the exam grade will count as a passed course, usually one or two entry-level classes depending on the score obtained.

A vast amount of resources have been concocted by the College Board to assist students as they attempt to prepare for the new exam format. To review content that has been covered in schools throughout the year, there is an AP YouTube channel that uploads videos daily for each course offered. If one desires, they can watch the live videos and interact with the AP instructors who are teaching the class and ask questions that they may have about the topic being discussed. The recorded seminars are uploaded onto the channel so that those who cannot attend the live review still have the opportunity to read through the power points and refresh themselves on any materials that they wish. Going along with this, an Optional Student Practice Section has been added to the AP Classroom web page that students have accounts for so that they may practice responding to essay questions and timing themselves while they do so in order to put themselves in the proper mindset for the actual exam. These are undeniably useful tools, for they have been created by the College Board, and students should utilize them as they work to retain information that will aid them in getting a five on their upcoming AP test.

Though the current situation is unprecedented and evoking a high amount of stress, it is key to focus one’s mind on the positive events that are occurring (like the approaching of the AP exams) and focus on something that can be individually controlled, such as one’s AP scores. Students are advised to study, relax, and ace the test!

For more information about the featured image, click here.