Online AP Testing is Beneficial

The College Board proposed changes to AP exams in consideration for COVID-19 on March 20, now allowing students to take them at home for 45 minutes.

May 1, 2020


Daniel Kang

Various AP exam prepbooks are aligned in a bookshelf. Students utilize these books to prepare for the exams as well as get ahead of their AP classes.

Mindlessly checking Life-360, a mobile app used for location tracking, I’ve realized that it has been exactly six days since I’ve left my home. During those six days, many –– maybe too many –– changes occurred. While the closure of my very own high school was foreseen, observing other districts’ reactions to the COVID-19, I failed to consider a major side-effect of this pandemic: the cancellation of standardized testing.


With the March SAT as a start, the College Board and ACT canceled consecutive months of standardized testing, which got people wondering: what about the Advanced Placement (AP) exams? With 22 different AP subjects, the College Board makes a fortune out of these tests, which are then utilized for investments. After all, Collegeboard is a “nonprofit” organization, so the extra cash cannot be kept for themselves.


According to Total Registration’s annual survey for AP stakeholders, in 2017 alone, Collegeboard racked up $1.1 billion simply from AP examinations. So with these exams being such a large component in the organization’s profit, it simply can not cancel these exams like the SAT or SAT Subject Tests. 


Therefore, on March 20, the College Board proposed the AP tests to be online where students can utilize any electronic device –– smartphone, laptop, or tablet –– to take them. The multiple-choice section, which had been 50% of the whole exam for many subjects, was taken out, leaving students with only the free-response questions section to take. In addition, in consideration for teachers who could not finish the AP curriculum before school closures, the College Board shortened the AP exam content by one to three units, which differ among subjects.


“As schools and communities navigate the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the health and safety of educators and students are the AP Program’s top priorities,” wrote the College Board in the update letter. 


Following this update, students expressed concerns regarding the change of AP test format. However, I believe the opposite: online AP testing will only benefit us.


To start off, there simply are no ways to alter the current format of AP testing to adhere to the COVID-19 regulations other than online testing. While pushing back the exam date is an option, even the health officials can not properly establish the end date of this pandemic as it continues to rise. According to the live updates of L.A. Times, the U.S. has 80,000 cases of the COVID-19, and this number is only to grow.


Some may believe that exam cancellations would be more fitting with the current situation. However, canceling the exams would mean that the College Board is losing $1 billion worth of investments that could be utilized towards bettering next year’s SAT and AP tests. Moreover, for high school juniors, this year’s exams are the last opportunity for them to showcase their high school rigor to colleges entering in the application season this fall. With AP tests canceled, these students will lose a great method to highlight mastery in numerous subjects.


“I definitely want the exams not canceled, even if it has to be online exams,” said junior Sarina Doshi, who is taking five AP exams this year. “I don’t want all the hard work I put in to go to waste because of Coronavirus, and I want colleges to see my efforts.”


As for potential cheating, I certainly believe that cheating can occur during paper formatted AP exams as well, especially during the multiple-choice section. However, with the elimination of the multiple-choice section this year, students will be less subjected to cheating. The free-response section provokes individual thinking, and the College Board will utilize ways to detect whether students are cheating or not.


“We use a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to protect the integrity of the exams,” wrote the College Board.


Therefore, if one cheats, the plagiarism detection software will easily uncover it.


With more changes potentially coming our way, we need to be open to them. While online AP testing may have restrictions on its own, it is the best option we have, and we have to adhere to the College Board’s decisions.


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