Published May 6, 2021
By CASSIE GORMAN
Last spring, the College Board moved all AP exams online, removing the multiple-choice sections and shortening each exam to only 45 minutes, but this year, the testing organization is preparing to administer full-length 3-hour exams both online and in person in May and early June, a decision that has evoked negative reaction from some Carmel High School students and teachers who have been in distance learning for a majority of the school year.
CHS has decided to administer exams largely online from May 18-28, but for those enrolled in AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP French, AP Spanish and AP Statistics, the exam will be on campus in the traditional testing format—with pen and paper.
“I’m torn,” says CHS principal Jon Lyons regarding the College Board’s decision. “I understand the value of a full test, but at the same time, nobody in the United States has been covering the same content…. I have a lot of faith in what teachers have done and what students have done, so I think it’ll just be not getting too overwhelmed and doing the best you can do.”
The College Board gave schools the option to choose between three different two-week testing windows throughout May and early June, known as Administration 1, Administration 2 and Administration 3. CHS chose Administration 2.
“AP teachers felt Admin 1 was too soon and preferred later administration windows so they had more time to teach and prepare,” explains AP exam coordinator Darren Johnston, who notes that Administration 2 allowed for more at-home tests. “With many students and families still feeling gravely concerned over COVID contraction, we didn’t feel right asking all these students — sometimes as many as 125 kids — to sit in a room for four straight hours.”
More than 400 CHS students will be taking AP exams, and the school has opted for students to take every exam online, except for those that the College Board mandates must be taken in person due to an increased risk of cheating, such as using resources like Google Translate for language exams.
The initial decision to mandate full-length exams raised some concerns from teachers and students. Suzanne Marden, who teaches AP French, is now preparing her students for a three-hour French exam with speaking, listening and writing sections, a far cry from the 13-minute speaking test AP French students took last year.
“I don’t see how that’s equitable,” says Marden, regarding the full-length exams. “When California students have not been in school all year, when Texas students have but Massachusetts students haven’t. Education has been so fragmented.”
Other CHS teachers agree with this sentiment, as a nationwide standard for full-length exams may fail to take into account the disparity of education models across the country as states have reopened schools at rapidly different paces throughout the 2020-21 school year, affecting students’ learning.
As the AP exam testing window draws closer for CHS students, feelings of anxiety are beginning to emerge.
“I took AP Human Geography last year and I felt more prepared,” says sophomore Cole Dahlia Prekoski, who is currently preparing for the AP World History and AP Computer Science Principles exam. “By the time we were online, it was all reviewing and studying, and now it’s flipped this year. Now, we are kinda done with content, but everything we are supposed to have learned has been online…. I’m a little nervous about being underprepared.”
Prekoski notes that she and her peers are using similar test prep resources they have used in prior years, including YouTube channels such as CrashCourse, educational websites like Albert and examples available through the College Board.
Those taking online exams must download a digital testing app created by the College Board on their Chromebooks or another desktop or laptop, and students will be guided through this process by their AP teachers as the exams approach, according to Lyons. For these exams, students will write answers to free-response questions directly into the app, able to highlight sections of text but unable to skip or move back and forth between questions in multiple-choice sections.
Online proctor support will be available to test-takers to help them log on for digital exams, and Johnston will be calling students and families to ensure they are ready to take the exam. If a student has problems with internet connection, they will be able to come to campus to use the school’s Wi-Fi.
Students taking AP exams on campus will likely be in the gym, with CHS administrators following the usual safety procedures including requiring students to wear masks and spacing desks at least 3 feet apart. Lyons notes that the testing location is subject to change, as smaller classes could be housed in the library or in other buildings around campus.
Some CHS seniors are planning to attend a parent-organized senior trip May 27, but the date conflicts with the AP Environmental Science and Biology exams, so CHS has decided to allow those seniors to take their exams May 14, in the timeline set for Administration 1, a change that the College Board guidelines allow.
“They have stuck with me all year,” says Marden, reflecting on the continued resiliency of her AP French students. “I’ve had great attendance and they are doing the work. I’m super proud of them because this hasn’t been ideal.”