What the New AP Exams Format Means for Aspiring College Students

COVID-19 has upended countless pillars of education in the past three months, from changing class grades and canceled finals to an uncertain college testing and admissions landscape. Perhaps the least discussed shift, however, has been CollegeBoard’s pivot on AP testing for the spring of 2020. Rather than cancel its iconic advance placement topic exams, the testing giant instead announced sweeping changes to how those exams will take place. For Spring 2020, AP Exams will be online, only 45 minutes (as opposed to three hours), consist of only a single free-response question, and only cover content that an average class would cover by March. So what do these changes mean for students?

Practice Your Writing

For students of the humanities, the move to free-response questions likely comes as a relief, as the mastery of detail inherent in multiple-choice is now no longer necessary.  This may be a red herring, however, as it means students’ writing skills are all that their scores will be based upon. AP writing is notoriously difficult, especially on the infamous Document Based Questions (DBQs), which require special rules and considerations not normally present in writing practice.

The Questions Will Be Harder

Conducting the test online from the safety of their own home means that students will have access to previously unheard-of resources while taking their tests. This means that not only will questions be harder, but that rubrics will be modified to reflect expectations of much deeper analysis and greater reference to ‘outside knowledge’ brought by students to the table. Students will need to practice accessing information efficiently and comprehensively to meet these new standards.

Teachers are More Important than Ever

As the CollegeBoard enters its final exam preparations, it has been revealed that teachers will have the opportunity to appeal students’ scores if they receive a lower exam result than the teacher would have expected. Students who have cultivated relationships with their teachers over the past eight months will likely see a massive return on their investment if they find a disappointing email from the CollegeBoard in August.

No matter what happens in May 2020, students will be in for a testing experience, unlike anything they or their peers have ever undergone. Time will tell if it will be a good experience or a bad one.

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Tags: High School, Academics, CollegeBoard, College Board, AP Tests, AP Classes, Advanced Placement, Online School, Online Learning, Remote School, Remote Learning, COVID-19, Coronavirus