Are you planning to take an AP exam this year? If so, this blog post will go over the College Board’s recent changes to the AP program in 2021.
Changes to the AP Program
Last year, most exams were shortened to forty-five minute essays that students took at home. There were many complaints about this particular format because it placed disproportionately high stakes on a single essay, and there were numerous concerns about cheating. This year, the format is returning to the three hour exam.
However, the College Board is offering both paper and digital versions of the exam. Moreover, schools can decide which version students will take, whether it’s the digital version at home, the paper version at school, or the digital version at school. These choices will vary between school districts. Some might decide for students and others might let students decide. If you have questions, contact your school’s counselor or AP coordinator.
AP Test Schedule
While AP exams are usually given on a single schedule during May, there will be three different testing periods this year. The first period ranges from May 3rd to May 17th, which is the traditional time window for AP exams. This administration includes a three hour paper test given at schools. Every exam will be available in this time period, and students can make up missed exams at the other two rounds.
Next, round two is a mix of both paper and digital. Half of the exams will be given in paper, and the others will be given digitally. The courses with paper exams are those that benefit from working things out on paper, or those that have important in-person sections. Paper exams include every language & culture, music theory, physics, chemistry, and mathematics exam. On the contrary, the digital exams will cover the social sciences.
Finally, the third round is completely digital. In this administration, AP Japanese and Chinese will only be available in a digital format at school. All math and sciences will be available in digital format even if they weren’t available during the second round (they can be administered at school or at home, depending on the decision of your AP coordinator). Nevertheless, all foreign language and culture exams as well as music theory exams will only be available in school environments due to fears that students can too easily use musical instruments or apps like Google Translate to cheat.
Lastly, all tests this year will be synchronized throughout time zones. For example, if someone in Pacific time takes an exam at 9 AM, students in Central time will take it at 11 AM, and someone in eastern time will take it at noon. This might mean that some exams will have to be taken after school hours
Controversy Over Changes
First, people are concerned about access to exams. There are some districts that are closed and completely on online education. These districts may not open up for AP exams, and students here may not be able to take language exams or music theory. In response, the College Board has suggested finding another school (that may be far away) that offers the exam. Additionally, they have recommended the CLEP as an alternative to a language exam (however, the CLEP doesn’t cover every language offered in the AP program). As a last resort, students can take a placement exam at the college or university the student plans to attend.
Next, the College Board is requiring students who plan to take the exam at home use a camera. Furthermore, they are banning the use of iPads and phones, which is a shift from last year that may introduce more problems due to the differences between test devices.
Generally, we recommend taking any test in person and on paper for the guaranteed testing environment, but we recognize that there are many risks involved with a pandemic out there. Lastly, we applaud the College Board for trying to provide options and letting schools decide what would best accommodate students.
What do you think of these changes? Let us know in the comments below the video!