2021 AP Exams: choosing between a lesser of two evils

Students, teachers, and administrators must choose between two problematic College Board testing methods


AP Exams are approaching fast, but for many students, the method of AP testing is still up in the air. Because of the pandemic’s lasting effects on schools, the College Board has proposed two methods of testing, neither of which are ideal for students. 

The first method presented by the College Board is the standard AP Exam. Students will come into school on the day of their test and take a three hour exam on paper. While this option is ideal for normalcy, it’s not ideal for the situation we are in. Virtual students, who opted to stay online to avoid the risk of being exposed to COVID-19, will be required to sit in a room with other students for multiple hours.

The second option for AP Exams is a virtual test. The College Board has established that all virtual exams will occur at the same time worldwide. For example, an AP Biology Exam may be set for 8 a.m. EST, so a student in California would have to take the exam at 5 a.m. While this policy may help prevent sharing answers between students, it’s unfair to any student who is not on the East coast. Another major problem of the virtual exam is the limited amount of maneuvering between questions. The College Board has stated that once an answer is selected and submitted, students will be unable to go back to prior questions. This poses major problems for students, as going back and rethinking questions is a vital part of test taking.

An ideal option for AP Exam testing would be an extended version of the 2020 exams. Students who took AP Exams in May 2020 had up to three open ended questions to answer for the entirety of the exam. If the College Board provided a full online exam rather than a limited question one with the ability to move between questions and a set time specific to a student’s time zone, these issues could be easily resolved. Students around the world would be able to take the exam at a reasonable time, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 would be eradicated, and a student’s knowledge would be accurately assessed with a full exam. This option has not been offered and will likely not be in the amount of time that remains before the 2021 exams, so students, teachers, and administrators will be forced to decide which of the two options is best for their situations.