College Board Catastrophic, Requires Reform


Lily Qin (she/her)

College Board causes a lot of frustration and stress for high schoolers.

College Board is “a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success” that almost every high schooler has or will interact with. But does the College Board really connect students to success in college, or do they just want money from the thousands of dollars of test fees 1 has to pay? Either way, the College Board has received an enormous amount of complaints from students, teachers, and parents alike.

Anyone who’s taken an Advanced Placement (AP) class will be familiar with the AP exam, which is taken in May. This test is designed to “measure how well you’ve mastered the content and skills of a specific AP course,” according to the College Board. It can potentially earn you college credit if you get a score of a 3, 4, or 5, which are considered “passing” scores.

The idea of earning college credit entices many students into taking these exams, however, around 50%—the exact percentage varies based on the exam— of students fail the exam annually. This is a profit making opportunity for the College Board, and the low pass rates do the opposite of the company’s mission of helping students find college success due to the choice to curve exam scores yearly. Curving both the SAT and AP exams means that they aren’t graded on a percentage scale rather based on how well everyone else does, essentially pitting you against your classmates.

Additionally, college credit can only be earned from passing the AP exam. Students could have an A in an AP class all year, but not get college credit because they failed the exam. In that situation, the exam fee would essentially be wasted.

“I think it’s just 1 more pressure for the kids,” said Spanish teacher Concha Martinez, who used to evaluate AP tests.

Since the College Board is in charge of creating the AP courses and exams, many have blamed the company for being the root of the toxic culture of taking way too many AP classes.

“They just keep adding more AP tests,” said math teacher Petro Petreas. “There’s no reason for a lot of AP classes, but because we have them, people take them.”

An example of this is AP Pre-Calculus, which will be added in the 2023-24 school year. There’s already a regular or honors Pre-Calculus class in many high schools. Adding this class as an AP will take away from the value of other AP classes since AP classes are no longer unique and only add to the problem of the growing number of APs.

Additionally, AP classes are targeted towards preparing students for the exam, rather than learning actual skills that can help them later in life.

Junior Suraya Mathai-Jackson agreed, stating that in AP U.S. History, AP European History, and AP Language and Composition, “you’re learning more about how to take the test and how to get a 5 on the AP exam than how to actually be prepared for using history and English in real life.”

There’s also the issue of registration for AP tests. AP exams cost $110 for a single test at Campolindo, and if you register after November 10, there is a late fee of $40. If you’re taking multiple AP tests, the costs for the test and preparation books quickly add up.

The regular deadline for registration used to be in the spring semester, around February or March, when students have had a whole semester of class, allowing them to understand their ability so they’re able to have a better estimate of if they’ll be able to perform well on the exam.

Now, “[the deadline’s] too early,” said Martinez. Petreas adds that “to make an informed decision in November to me is a little crazy.”

AP Physics teacher David Talcott feels that “the AP program on its own is really flawed” and “a lot of harm has been caused by so much emphasis placed on a test.”

The College Board also administers the SAT and PSAT, both of which test a students reading, writing, and math skills. These tests are both administered early in the morning, either 7:15 am or 7:45 am on a Saturday, which means the test starts when students would most likely still be asleep during any other weekend.

Although some of the tests at certain schools are administered on Wednesdays, the start times are still unnecessarily early. This only adds to the sleep-deprivation of students, who are already stressed from homework, other exams, extracurriculars, and the prospect of college.

Furthermore, most SAT scores are released within 2 weeks of the test while PSAT scores are released after around 7 weeks. Students take the PSAT/NMSQT in mid-October and should expect scores in early December despite the College Board stating, “PSAT/NMSQT scores are typically available online 4–6 weeks after the test administration.” This is yet another lie the College Board tells.

The PSAT score releases taking over 3 times as long to be released is unreasonable because it is shorter than the SAT and is a scantron test, which can be graded easily.

The PSAT is a Preliminary SAT, which is a practice test for the SAT. You’re supposed to be able to use your score to determine how well you’d do on the actual thing. The length it takes for PSAT scores to come out defeats the purpose of taking it for juniors taking the SAT in November or December of the same year. They’ll be done with their SAT and November testers would’ve gotten their scores by the time PSAT scores are released.

As if the College Board hasn’t tortured you enough, it costs more money to send your SAT scores to colleges. The same goes for AP scores once a certain date in summer, before the scores come out, has passed. This indicates that the company only wants money and doesn’t actually care about “connecting students to college success.”

Petreas agrees, saying that “I feel that they’re just out to make money.”

There’s also the problem of equity. Not everyone has an equal advantage in taking College Board tests because wealthier people have access to extensive test prep and tutors, therefore they’re more likely to perform better on the exam while the poorer people are left to fend for themselves.

Despite all the difficulties students face from these standardized tests, “it’s a dilemma since although these tests are not the best methods of testing ability, a standard benchmark test is still necessary,” said sophomore Zoe Ye.

Additionally, the College Board website is flawed itself, unexpectedly glitching at inconvenient times when students need it the most. The site makes you sign in almost every single time you go onto the website, even if you’re just visiting the site 2 minutes after closing it.

It’s hard to find anything you’re looking for because the website is so unorganized, so students who are already stressed and struggling are forced to spend more time struggling to find any useful information on the College Board website.

Even though the College Board was originally intended to help students with college success, the company has turned into a nightmare for students. It’s impossible to escape, and as you advance throughout high school, the company only becomes more prominent in your life.