CAMPUS: Students have the option to take AP exams at home or in-person this year

For many students, after a year of unfathomable loss and extreme fatigue, studying for AP exams is the farthest thing from their mind. Yet life and school have continued in a virtual space, and so will exams, should a student opt in. 

SCHS’s AP exam schedule was released in early March. The College Board is offering three windows of testing; the first all in-person exams during the first two weeks of May, the second in-person and digital exams during the last two weeks of May, and the last all digital exams during the first two weeks of June. 

According to Vice Principal Attendance, Technology and Discipline Nelson Hori, the AP exam testing window at SCHS will span from Monday, May 3 for AP Government and AP Physics C in-person, to Thursday, June 10, for digital versions of the AP Chemistry and AP Statistics exams. Additionally, this year’s exams will continue to provide testing accommodations for students who need them.

Teachers were initially told to expect traditional full-length, in-person AP exams administered in the first two weeks of May. As more information was released, however, plans and dates changed. Less class time and uncertainty about exams had many teachers struggling to plan their curriculum accordingly. 

“I have rearranged my curriculum at least three or four times so far,” AP Computer Science A teacher Julie Chen said. “And I realized that it was stressful for the students as well to not know exactly what we had to cover and how quickly we had to cover it.”

Fortunately, once test dates were announced, teachers began to feel more secure in their anticipated plan and have been offering more concrete help in preparation for the exam. 

“I’ve noticed that my classes are providing more AP review material when the schedules were released,” senior Nadine Zoubeidi said. 

Regarding the content of the exams, Hori said the College Board is trying to balance security and fairness between the two versions. 

“The answer that I’ve been getting from (the) College Board is that they’re (the two test versions) equally challenging,” Hori said. “The digital version was created to basically not allow for someone to say hop on their phone, or get onto another computer and Google an answer.”

The College Board said on their website that they “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.” 

But the freedom of a digital exam means that certain changes intended to keep answers secure have students worried. 

“A lot of students are concerned about the fact that they heard, which is completely true, that the digital exam doesn’t let you move backward,” Chen said. “So once you answer a question on the multiple choice, even if you have no idea what the answer is, you can’t skip the question because you can’t go back to it.”

For some, the various precautions that the College Board has taken against cheating on the online exams have prompted them to opt in to take the exams on campus. 

“I decided to opt in for AP Lang and AP Bio because when I take tests sometimes, I think of the answer after moving past a question or use other questions to help, and (I) wouldn’t want to not be able to change my answers like on the online exam,” junior Maile Wong said. 

For junior Jackson Moody, he’ll be logging into his AP English Language and Composition exam on June 7, the first Monday after the school year ends. He said that with the full-digital year of school, he has grown used to testing and learning on a computer. 

“I am taking all of my tests online this year. I didn’t decide to opt in to going in-person because I have just become so accustomed to the online tests and the format in which we do them,” Moody said. “I just felt it was unnecessary as well because I am not going back to school anyway for the rest of the semester.”

As of April 9, 139 students have signed up to take a total of 217 in-person exams at SCHS, and approximately 450 students are taking a total of 985 digital exams at home, according to Hori. 

A big concern of Hori and his counterpart at Wilcox, VP of Student Support Services George Niczewicz, was ensuring that the AP exams would be fair this year. 

“It was a decision for George and I to also say, ‘Well, we have to provide some sort of some equity here,’” Hori said. “Because there might be students that really thrive in a paper and pencil test situation, such as Calculus, and it’d be pretty difficult to do a problem on the computer and so we have to offer that (an in person test) to them.”

Many students are understanding of the circumstances this year and feel that the testing process is the best it can be, given the situation. 

“I think, while there are some complaints from people, (the) College Board did a relatively good job in trying to make sure that as many people have the opportunity to take exams,” Wong said. “Of course there will always be complaints, and I don’t think there’s any circumstance under which testing could be considered completely fair, but I think that there is at least an effort to make it more so.”