Collegeboard announced some changes to its tests to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines. (Graphic by Catherine Vu)
Fountain Valley High School

College Board makes changes to AP and SAT tests amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of education, and Advanced Placement and SAT tests are the latest on the list. This year, College Board has made a number of changes as to how tests will be administered and what they will look like in order to adhere to health guidelines while allowing students to still take the exams.

Unlike the 2019-2020 AP tests, which were 45 minutes long and consisted of just free-response questions, College Board will administer full three-hour-long AP tests in order to cover the full course content so that students can accurately get college credit and be placed into the right classes.

“We owe it to both students and colleges to accurately indicate whether students have learned the course material and should thus be exempt from learning it in college,” College Board said in a statement.

Many students, like junior Regina Nguyen, expressed their concerns about full AP tests after dealing with problems last year, such as difficulties submitting tests and having internet connection throughout it — issues over which College Board was sued for last May.

“Personally, testing for AP classes at home [in 2020] was not an ideal situation for me. There were distractions in my home which caused me to be not focused while I was testing for the AP exam,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen added, however, that she was concerned about the brevity of last year’s AP exams — a concern that would be addressed by a return to full-length exams.

“I did not think that it was fair that the score we received [on the AP European History test] solely relied on a free-response question,” Nguyen said.

AP tests will be administered in person if possible and online for schools that are unable to do so. Students who decide to not take the test or want to can cancel their exams with no additional fees this year.

“The decision for how AP exams will be administered has not been decided yet, but will be announced soon,” Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) College and Career Specialist Irene Yu said. “The AP exam will be the normal level of rigor and length regardless of whether FVHS will administer online or in person.”

New changes also include an expanded AP test schedule with two testing dates for each subject: one in May and another in June to give instructors more time if needed. Students who need to test later for other reasons, such as having two AP tests at the same time, will receive alternate exams at a later date.

Several AP classes will also have additional changes. For AP Art and Design, students will submit digital portfolios instead of physical ones, and AP Language and Culture exams will be administered on a new online platform with more details to be released soon.

To prepare for AP tests, College Board has provided resources including daily videos, practice questions and tests and guides on AP Classroom and YouTube for both students and teachers to utilize. Live online review sessions will take place from April 19 to 30 for extra help.

“There have been plenty of resources available for me on AP classroom but it does take initiative to utilize them,” junior Christina Tran said.

College Board also announced on Jan. 19 that it will discontinue SAT subject tests. Students who have already registered for these tests will have their exams canceled and refunded. In addition, the optional SAT essay portion will be discontinued in June 2021.

“The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know,” College Board said.

While some students are thankful for the removal of the SAT subject test, others think that it is a little disappointing due to them not being able to show off their strengths in certain subjects.

“I think it’s disheartening as I have some weaknesses [that would be on my college applications] which can be showcased to colleges so I feel like SAT subject tests were a great way to show off some [other] strengths,” Tran said.

For students like Tran, Yu advises shifting focus from tests to other activities.

“Students should increase their roles/responsibilities in clubs and/or extracurricular activities to build their leadership skills or students can take workshops/classes to help them learn about their future career,” Yu said.

More information about AP and SAT tests will be available later in 2021 on the College Board website.