Are this year’s online AP exams fair?



With the unfortunate circumstances that everyone is going through at the moment due to the pandemic, most testing situations had to come to a complete stop, or at least to a compromise. Country-wide testing such as the SATs have been canceled for most schools. Yet Advanced Placement testing still goes on, but not without any change.

As many students who may be taking an AP course at this time already know, the test this year will be two free-response questions which will be answered in a 45-minute time period. And the big change this year, so as to respect social distancing, is that the exam will be taken at home.

According to Collegeboard, they have taken strong measures to prevent cheating and any sort in copying of answers. They are also supposedly asking questions that won’t be found anywhere on the internet. And if caught cheating, they say that it would go onto the student’s permanent record.

Along with these new measures, there are also new allowances. For this year’s exam, students are able to use their notes, which many students may consider to be a blessing, as it means they will have to memorize a lot less content.

But, while it makes the test seem a lot easier, it may also make the scores invalid representations of the student’s knowledge on the subject being tested on, which I predict could lead to some colleges not accepting the scores.

Even if somehow they could prohibit the usage of notes on the exam, that is not the only issue regarding the integrity of the test. While the content difficulty has remained unchanged, the test has still become easier, due to the change in the testing format.

As Scott Waisanen, the AP Chemistry teacher told me, “The AP test will be easier from the standpoint that it’s not that long, and you won’t feel as braindead when you are done.”

Students are only testing for 45 minutes, compared to the, on average, three-hour test. This may lead to higher than average scores. Although, as there is no precedent to this, only after the test is over will people be able to see if the time shortening had an impact on the scores.

Compared to previous exam sessions, I think it is unfair to previous students that this year’s students are able to take the test the way they are now. At the same time, it would be unfair to this year’s students to not have an opportunity to get college credit for the AP course after spending an entire year preparing for this exam.

Either way, it would seem someone is getting a sour score on this situation.