AP prep books are used to study for the AP exams. (Photo by Dong Wan Kang)
Arnold O. Beckman High School

Opinion: Online AP testing is beneficial

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 — may be 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 cancelation of standardized testing.

With the March SAT as a start, the College Board, alongside ACT, canceled consecutive months of standardized testing, which got people wondering — what about Advanced Placement exams?

With 22 different AP subjects, the College Board makes a fortune out of these tests, which are then utilized for investments. After all, College Board is a nonprofit organization, so the extra cash can’t be kept for themselves.

According to Total Registration’s annual survey for AP stakeholders, in 2017, College Board 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 2s.

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, has also been 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 over 83,830 cases of COVID-19, and this number is only to grow.

Some may believe that exam cancelations would be more fitting with the current situation. Well, canceling the exams would mean that the College Board is losing $1 billion worth of investments that could be utilized toward the betterment of next year’s SAT and AP tests.

Not only that but for high school juniors, this year’s exams are the last opportunity for them to showcase their high school rigor to colleges entering the application season this fall. With it canceled, these students will lose a great method to highlight mastery in numerous subjects.

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’ve got, and we have to adhere to the College Board’s decisions.