Changes in AP Testing

By: Tanvi Mittal — Editor-in-Chief

The College Board recently released the changes to the AP test for the 2020-2021 administration. 

There will be three separate administrations available to students with in-person and online options. Additionally, they are waiving all cancellation fees. 

In a statement, the College Board said, “we’ve made decisions that prioritize the health and safety of educators and students while preserving opportunities for motivated students to earn college credit. Rather than offering a single testing approach that would serve only some students and educators well, we are offering a variety of testing options that reflect the unique characteristics of each exam and the preferences we’ve heard from AP teachers, coordinators, and school leaders.”

The first administration lasts through May 3–7, 10–12, 14, and 17. It is fully in school with traditional, full-length paper and pencil exams and will be available for all subjects. The second administration is on May 18–21, 24–28. “Half of the subjects are paper and pencil, administered in school, and half are full-length digital exams, administered in school or taken at home due to coronavirus precautions,” states the College Board. Lastly, the third administration is available from June 1–4 and 7–11. It will be fully online and is available for most subjects.

“Schools can choose the exam administration options that work best for them—paper and pencil exams administered at school, digital exams administered at school, digital exams taken at home, or a mix—provided the school meets all requirements for each option,” said the AP classroom website. 

AP Biology teacher Mr. James Dixon says, “the major change is the format. This year it will mostly be on-line (though there is an early date with pen and paper tests). This is a major change as except for the very modified test last year, the tests have always been pen and paper.”

“Given the pandemic, I think this is a good change. I just wonder what the test will be like. How many questions and how many multiple choices versus open response. I also presume that the test will be open notes so that will definitely affect the nature of the questions. I expect a lot of narratives, data, and problem solving,” added Dixon.

Other tests have not changed as much. “The AP Literature and Composition exam will be primarily the same as it was two years ago; there will be reading passages with multiple-choice questions and three essay prompts. The same is true for the AP Language exam, which is an exam that many students take even though we do not offer the course,” said AP English teacher Ms. Kristine Weishaar.

“The College Board is very security conscious, so I’m surprised they would set up a situation in which some students take the tests weeks earlier than others. They must have written many questions that are somewhat equivalent so that they can have different questions on each test. This will lead to a lot of work on the test makers part to ensure validity and equivalence of the results,” said Dixon. 

Yet, he added that he sees “no problem for SHS students as you will be well prepared and benefit from the extra time before the exam…I am a bit concerned about time management. If students plan on relying on open notes, they may lose a lot of time looking things up. We’ll all need to be prepared with strategies for this.” 

Specifically for AP Biology, “students have been taking tests using the AP classroom so hopefully that increases comfort taking the test,” said Dixon.

Weishaar agrees that students will be prepared, saying that “the AP Literature exam is more skill-based than content-based, so we have been preparing for the exam by studying poetry, reading complex novels, writing papers, discussing literature, etc. AP Lit offers some flexibility in our approach because we do not need to address a specific body of content.”

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