College Board Bungles AP Test Administration

This spring has been laden with nuances and online experiments to bring students their high school experience via screens, the most recent of these adjustments being the Advanced Placement (AP) exams.

AP week was grueling enough before the days of social distancing. Moving all that commotion online only created more anxiety, yet a myriad of other issues came to light with these exams.

After students scrambled for 45 minutes to prove themselves masters of the material and worthy of passing scores, many in the community were unable to submit their tests, and have learned that they will need to repeat the sadistic torture all over again in June.

If I could grade the College Board on a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 2. The only reason I don’t give it a 1 is because I fear they will read this article and cancel my scores.

We survived. That’s the only way to describe the feeling of having escaped this week with my sanity (barely) intact.

My biggest issue with the AP tests of this year was the time expectation. Every AP veteran this year is familiar with the heart palpitations that began when the timer ticked down to 5 minutes and you had to scramble to upload your work when you weren’t even close to finished with your exam.

We were essentially given 45 minutes to regurgitate a year’s worth of college-level information. Some exams had 2 questions for students to prove themselves. Others only had 1.

Each subject also had multiple test versions. While I recognize that this is a precaution against cheating, it’s unfair that not all kids are tested for the same knowledge. The random algorithm deciding which prompt I got for my AP US History exam had as much power over my score as I did, and that is just wrong.

How can AP students across America be graded equitably when some lucked out with easy questions and others were thrown curveballs?

The worst part of the test wasn’t even taking it: it was the 30 minutes of anxiety that came after I logged on, waiting for my question to appear.

For the past year, students have been trained how to perform well on a handwritten exam, and moving the testing format to online presented a massive challenge in and of itself. Since students pay a total of $110 per exam, each minute spent on the test is roughly worth $2.44. Any time spent printing out the exam takes away from time spent on answer the questions.

While I commend the College Board for providing practice questions through which students and teachers were able familiarize themselves with the interface and how to attach their responses, many students nonetheless found issues in attaching JPEGs instead of the HEICs, the iPhone default for photo files.

In short, APs were the survival of the tech-savviest.

Beyond the basic structural issues of the testing, many students faced difficulties in submitting their responses.

According to a survey of 58 Campolindo students conducted via La Puma’s Instagram account, 6 students faced difficulties and were unable to send their responses. If these 6 students had taken the original paper exams in pre-coronavirus times, their tests would have been easily submitted and graded along with the hundreds of thousands of other test-takers.

We have all heard horror stories of how some students couldn’t submit their AP Physics exams, how the “submit” buttons wouldn’t work and students just watched the clock tick down without their answers.

Sophomore Ashley Xu was “not satisfied” with the test the College Board created, and was unable to submit her AP Calculus exam due to the same technical difficulties faced by several others.

“It was extremely stressful to sit there and watch the timer run out and not be able to submit the test,” Xu said.

Xu intends on taking a makeup exam in June but is concerned that the exam will be more difficult than the 1st she took, which she felt confident in until her submission did not work.

“I was furious that I have to go through all the stress and restudy the material again for another 3 weeks when it’s not even problems [from] my end,” Xu added.

The College Board came out with a solution, for students to email their responses if the submit button did not work, but only after a week’s worth of kids had already taken their exams. Students who were unable to submit their exams during the 1st week of testing now have to retake them in June.

Students are paying for the mistake of a “non-profit” organization, which offered an alternative to a select amount of the student population yet provided no saving grace for the poor kids who struggled before the College Board’s email.

You would think that if I paid $110 for each AP test I took, those tests would certainly be worth every cent. But sadly, this is not the case.

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the old APs.