The College Board announced details to the 2020 AP examinations. (Photo courtesy of the College Board)
Arnold O. Beckman High School

Opinion: My experience with at-home AP testing

Advanced Placement testing ended May 22. Students, including myself, have invested hundreds of hours preparing for these examinations, arduously practicing and studying over the course of a year. We even paid $105 for every exam we took.

Unfortunately, this year, we partook in online testing. With 45 minutes given, we had to complete two free-response questions (for some, only one) to receive a score of 1 through 5. I most definitely believe that this does not portray our true mastery of subjects. However, this was the “best” the College Board could possibly do. 

My AP exam experience started with AP Physics C: Mechanics. As it was the very first exam on the College Board’s schedule, I was beyond nervous. From the server crashing to my sister accidentally bugging me during the exam, I envisioned every worst-case scenario that could possibly occur. Surprisingly though, I concluded the exam with “congratulations” posted on the screen, assuring me that my responses have been turned in. 

However, this was not the case for countless other test-takers across the globe. Trevor Packer, the Vice-President of the College Board posted on Twitter that approximately 50,000 students took the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam. He tweeted that “98% submitted their responses, while approximately 2% encountered issues attempting to submit their response.”

This statistic, though, was deceiving — 2% of 50,000 students means that approximately 1,000 students were robbed of their hard work and dedication just that day. These students, simply due to the College Board’s server malfunctioning or their WiFi not working –– both not the students’ fault –– had to send a makeup request to take the migraine-inducing, tiresome exam once again. 

While I believed that I would not be a victim of this issue, the same problem arose when I was taking my AP Calculus BC exam. The server malfunctioned for a large portion of the time, and I spent more time fixing my internet than focusing on the problems. Although I was able to submit my responses at the end, the answers did not reflect my true abilities; I was beyond worried and irritated. 

Through it all, what agitated me the most was the fact that the College Board established an email response method the second week of AP exams. Students, then were able to submit their responses over email for exactly 10 minutes after the exam concluded.

At the end of this announcement, the College Board announced that students’ submissions would not be accepted if they tested from May 11 through May 15 “to protect the security and validity of exams,” the Board wrote on its website.

“However, these students can feel confident that the email option will be in place for them during the makeup exams,” the post on the College Board website read.

I, and many students can agree with me on this, immediately thought of a handful of my friends as well as students around the world who could not submit the responses and were forced to sign up for makeup the first week of testing. What if the College Board came up with this “backup email submission” method prior to the first week?

There were certain aspects the College Board did well, though. First of all, the College Board was considerate enough to allow numerous methods of submission: file attachment, picture attachment, copy-and-paste, and email submission (although it was only adopted for students taking the exam the second week). This allowed students to pick-and-choose what is best for them and perform accordingly.

Also, there were close to zero calculator-needing questions, in consideration for those who can not afford to purchase a graphing –– or even scientific –– calculators. 

To give my experience a rating out of 10, it would be a 7. I still praise the College Board for keeping the exams unlike the International Baccalaureate program. I wish for high scores for all the work I put in, but we just have to wait and see how grading will even work for these tests this year.

Good luck to those completing makeup exams the first week of June.