Remote learning changes AP tests

AP tests change as COVID-19 forces remote learning. Tests were 45 minutes, consisting of either one or two questions. Teachers and students faced challenges while preparing for exams.

AP tests change as COVID-19 forces remote learning. Tests were 45 minutes, consisting of either one or two questions. Teachers and students faced challenges while preparing for exams.

by Andrew Kastelman, Business Development and Marketing Manager

Over the course of two grueling weeks, AP tests typically challenge students’ stamina. Normally over three hours, this year’s exams have been shortened to 45 minutes due to COVID-19.

This radical change left history and english exams having one question, with remaining exams having two questions. Two question exams will have one 25 minute question, with five minutes to submit, followed by a second 15 minute question. Exams ran from May 11-22. 

Math and AP Statistics teacher Leah Wallace has worked hard to advise her students to handle the new test format. 

“I’ve been a part of several meetings over the past couple months with College Board and textbook publishers that address the new format and all the details that come with this year’s AP exam,” Wallace said. “Every meeting I take notes and relay everything back to my students.”

To help assist students, the College Board released a demo exam that will show students how to submit their work. The exam will allow three ways of submission: attaching a text file, attaching photo(s), and copy and paste. 

For teachers, making sure their students are prepared is their biggest concern. Science and AP Chemistry teacher Mary Ann Battersby discussed the challenges of teaching an AP course online.

“The greatest challenge is trying to determine if the students understand the material that I am presenting to them in a lesson,” Battersby said.

Considering most schools moved to online learning in March, the College Board altered the content on each exam, cutting out content typically learned after March. This change helped students and teachers, as many classes did not have to learn new material leading up to the exam, and rather could focus on reviewing previously learned material. 

Wallace thinks her students have done a good job adapting to learning online.

“Instead of interactive lessons and class discussions, they’re watching videos, participating in conferences, and doing online activities,” Wallace said. 

Another resource available to help prepare for exams is AP course videos. These daily videos that began on March 25 review most of the topics on each exam. However, English and AP English and Composition teacher Randi Metsch-Ampel thinks nothing can replace in-person learning.

While we have continued through Zoom to have interesting conversations about important and sometimes hot-topic issues, and I honestly look forward to these class discussions, there is no substitute for actually being present with each other in the classroom,” Metsch-Ampel said. 

The College Board will offer makeup exams in each course between June 1-5. Due to technology issues, some students have had trouble submitting their exams. If this happens, or for any other reason a student cannot complete their exam, students can request a makeup exam within 24-48 hours after their original exam ended.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of AP students who had trouble submitting their exams. The lawsuit demands that the College Board score students’ exams instead of making them take the retest. It asks for hundreds of millions of dollars in monetary relief as well.

Another issue occurring is some students are having trouble submitting AP tests because the College Board can’t handle iPhone photos. The submission website would freeze on the loading screen, and students would be forced to retest.

On May 18, the College Board updated submission guidelines by adding a backup email submission. If students cannot submit their exam, instructions will appear on students’ screens on how to email their answers.

By taking part in a college-level course, teachers have different expectations for their AP students. Battersby expects this to continue during remote learning.

“I have higher expectations for my AP class. Since this is a college level class I expect that when I teach new material they will study and learn independently or reach out to me to ask questions,” Battersby said. “The responsibility falls on them.”