College Board Announces Changes to AP Exams Due to COVID-19 School Closures

By Emily Hood, Executive Producer of FHNtodayTV

This story has been updated to include more information from FHN AP teachers.

On Friday, the College Board announced changes to AP exam testing for 2019-20 school year due to school closures because of COVID-19. Students will not take exams in person but rather take a 45-minute online exam over material covered in classes through early March. These tests can be taken with any device that has internet access. Students who do not have internet access should contact the College Board directly.

“I feel like in some classes [my score] could improve because I’m working at home, so I’m in my own comfort zone,” senior Harshi Segabandi said. “I feel like I’m gonna score well, but at the same time, I’m not exactly sure based on a 45 minute test.”

There will be two exam dates for students who want to either take the exam early or have extra time to review. The online exams will only focus on free-response questions, which according to the College Board, will be combined with anti-cheating software to ensure students cannot search answers or collaborate on tests to cheat on exams.

“I think [free-response questions] may help out a little bit because they’re able to show a lot of understanding, and not necessarily trip up on small details that they might have on the multiple choice part,” AP Statistics teacher Steven Willott said.

Teachers will be continuing instruction online with students to help finish reviewing class material and prepare for the new exams. However, some students and teachers worry the lack of face time will hurt some students.

“When I’m in the classroom and I’m in front of you, I can motivate even the student that’s just taking the class to please mom and dad, or just get out of the semester exam,” Amy Stoker, AP Literature and Composition teacher, said. “I can still motivate that person to put their effort into it. When you’re sitting at home, and the sun is getting warmer outside, I don’t know how much I can motivate. Those who care are gonna still care and those who don’t are gonna give up. That’s what concerns me as a teacher and concerns all of us is that we’re not there to help keep everybody’s head in the game and keep them motivated.”

Despite concerns about the effects of online learning on student success, AP Psychology teacher Sean Fowler thinks the changes to AP testing could give those in education a new perspective.

“The [responsibility] of learning is always on the learner, but it’s going to be increasingly on the learner when there’s no one there looking over your back,” Fowler said. “If you’ve never been taught how to learn, unless you’re just a natural, this is going to be really hard for our students. I think that this is a real opportunity for us to reevaluate how we are approaching education, and maybe rethink some of our models.”

Teachers are using programs such as Remind 101, Google Classroom and Schoology to communicate and provide resources to their students. However, some teachers do not have a consistent way to communicate with students or are not confident in their ability to use technology. Next week, FHSD teachers will be creating plans to ensure that online learning strategies are in place.

“Even those who are comfortable with technology, we’re all feeling like you are,” Stoker said. “We all have a tight stomach. It’s kind of a fear of the roller coaster drop before you do it. I think some are gonna maneuver better than others, but I think we’re all just going to do the best we can.”

The College Board says that colleges support the decision to simplify AP exams and will still be providing credit to students. Students can also participate in online, live review sessions from the College Board beginning on March 25 to give more opportunities to learn material before the exams.

“The one thing that it will really test in everybody is their resilience, their persistence and their determination,” Stoker said. “I hope everybody rises to that challenge because it will make you a better student, a better employee, a better person. You’ll be more successful in life if you can navigate this, and I think you’re going to have a bigger growing experience through this then you would do a normal school year.”