College Board Provides Options for AP Exams

Addie Grimm, Photos Editor

This year’s AP testing season will begin on Monday, May 3 and will continue until June 11, making it a six-week season, in contrast to the standard  two-week period–one of the many significant changes to the exam season compared to past years. 

College Board provided students taking AP classes and exams this year with three administration dates to choose from. Traditionally, AP testing has always been paper and pencil, but due to COVID-19, this year they are offering other options. 

“Students can choose either to do it paper-pencil, or they can do it digitally. And if they choose to do it digitally, then they have the choice to do it either digitally at home or digitally in school. So essentially, there’s three options: paper and pencil, digital at home, or digital in school,” said John Peters, Assistant Principal for College and Career Readiness. 

Every exam has three administrations. However, there is not a set number for how many of the three are paper-and-pencil or digital. Those decisions are based on what is more practical for the specific class. For example, AP Physics II has two paper-and-pencil administrations, while AP US History only has one. However, there were some exams that had slightly different guidelines to follow. 

“There are a couple of exceptions,” said Peters, “And that’s the language tests. The language tests are all in school, paper and pencil, all three sessions, because there’s a recording piece to that, that they want students to come into school to do.” 

The third administration of the test is, in most cases, a duplicate of the second and happens in June; therefore, it wasn’t offered as a first choice for students. Those dates were kept on reserve in the case of absences or conflicts. But otherwise, students were given a choice about when they wanted to take their AP exams. 

More students chose to take their exams traditionally, paper and pencil. Out of the 1,354 exams being administered,  780 (58%) are paper and pencil tests and 574 (42%) are digital tests. Of those digital exams, 399 (70%)  of them will be taken at home while the other 175 (30%) will be taken in school.

The digital exams, both at-home and in-school, will be taken on Chromebooks through the College Board AP Digital Testing App. This app has example questions to allow students to get familiar with the platform. College Board has also installed security software for the digital exams. 

“For the essays, there’s different software that scans the essays for plagiarism. There’s this feature like the multiple choice questions, you can’t go back and forth between questions, once you answer a question, you’ve got to move on,” said Peters. 

The College and Career Readiness Office is tasked with planning and organizing AP exams for North students. (Caroline Look)

The specific formats and questions styles on the AP exams are also different from past years. For example, in AP US History, depending on the test administration date you choose, the format of your test may differ. 

“It’s not a full traditional AP test like pre-COVID years,” said Michael Zernone, AP US History  teacher. For the AP US History exam, there is one less essay question, more short answer questions, but the same number of multiple choice questions, compared to previous years. 

The new AP exam formats and dates were not announced until January, making it slightly difficult for teachers to know exactly what to plan for in terms of the actual exam. 

“Mr. Jacobson [the other APUSH teacher] and I, we didn’t know what the test format was going to be like until January. And so we were going forward with the assumption that, you know, all of it was going to be the same as it had been pre-COVID years, so like traditional. So we were actually teaching all of the skills that the students would have to know, as if they were going to be taking the full test,” said Zernone. 

After the announcement about the new format, their focus had to shift slightly to emphasize different essay skills, but before that announcement, the way that the AP class was taught was the same as previous years. 

One big challenge with AP testing this year is location. In the past, AP exams with large numbers of students were held at the Kane County Fairgrounds, but that site is now being used for COVID-19 vaccination distribution. 

Some spaces that will be utilized for testing are the LRC, room 302 and other classrooms; however, other traditional testing locations such as the auditorium foyer and the cafeteria are unable to be used because they now host study halls during the school day. New testing locations were looked into. 

“For some of the larger tests, we’re working with Christ Community Church because they have some big spaces over there. And we’ll bus students over there in some of those tests,” said Peters. 

Not much adjustment is needed to accomodate for social distancing during the exam because students are always separated by five feet on exam days. The main difference is the wearing of masks and the usage of hand sanitizer and wipes, similar to in the classrooms. 

“These students have put a lot of effort in and have been really, really flexible with the changes that College Board did make to the assessment. And so I’m just really proud of the student’s commitments that they’ve made this year. And just the flexibility that they’ve had in that,” siad Zernone.