Whether it’s sports, classes, or prom, every aspect of school has been impacted with the current global pandemic, and AP Exams are no exception. Although most end-of-the-year testing was cancelled, to the relief of many students as they adjusted to a new online reality, the AP exams are to go on as scheduled. As schools across the country close for the remainder of the year in order to practice social distancing, AP testing is being changed so that it can be taken safely at home.
“Most states have gone Stay-at-Home Orders, so that means that they can’t be at school. The College Board has switched almost all the AP exams to online testing,” AP US History teacher, Ms. Jones, said. “In the case of US History, students will have 45 minutes for the exam and they’ll get to take it on the device of their choosing, so they could do it on a computer, phone, or iPad. The US History exam is also going to be a free response– in this case a document-based question– so students will have to write a timed essay about the question they are given.”
AP, or Advanced Placement, is an option students can choose for subjects such as social studies or literature, which will give a student college credit. However, unlike a college class, the credit a student will get is determined by an end-of-the-year exam which includes the material from an entire school year. However, online testing means that rather than the typical three to four hour test made up of multiple choice, short answer questions, and essays; online testing will only be 45 minutes of one essay or two short answer questions. In order to make sure that testing is fair, the College Board has installed a series of measures such as only allowing an exam to be taken on one day. In addition, the tests will be equipped with programs designed to prevent plagiarism.
“With the timing at only 45 minutes, I think for some people that might add a little pressure, as with the normal test you get a little bit longer. I feel that might mess a few people up, but I understand why they cut it so short. It might take a little bit of stress off of people too, because with a testing environment, they read a list and say ‘If you do this or this you can have your test taken away,’ and ‘You can only have this type of pencil.’ That might freak people out, so being in their own environment will help, but everyone tests differently.” Sophomore Baylee Jackman said.
Jackman is currently taking AP World History, and though she is more nervous for the upcoming exam, Jackman is working hard to ensure that she is prepared.
“I’m studying a little bit more, and just trying to take it all in because it’s more on me now I feel like. It was always up to me, but I feel that I’m somewhat on my own doing this. I’m definitely going to have to buckle down and study a little more. And I’ll review things with people a little more, I’ll ask myself: ‘Did I understand that completely? Let’s review.’”
However, students are not the only group who have to adjust to these new circumstances. AP teachers have also started thinking about ways to make sure that not only do their students learn the materials in time for testing, but that they can elaborate in an essay.
“We just got all of this information last Friday, so we have all been very quickly adapting and changing things as needed,” Ms. Jones said. “Personally now that I know what the exam is going to be, I’m starting to implement practice DBQs since that’s what the US History exam is going to be. We’re doing more practice DBQs, and they know the time period now so they know what they need to study. I always suggest that students go back through and read their notes because their notes and their words are going to help them best.”
Most AP teachers have started by building off what would have been done in a classroom. This means that they will release the notes a student would take in class, along with a video of themselves teaching. In this way, students can feel more comfortable with the lessons for that week as they know what to expect. Teachers have started finding solutions not only to teaching, but to addressing any problems that students could face while taking the exam online.
“I think for students that really rely on the school setting to be in the right mindset to take the test, this will really hurt. So my suggestion for those students is to find their testing spot now, and start making that their main school spot so that way in their brain they’re training themselves to think ‘Oh this is my school, this is my smart space. I feel comfortable taking a test here.’” Ms. Jones said.
One of the biggest struggles teachers now face is how to help their students prepare for tests. Without a school setting where students can gather, it is difficult for teachers to find a method of studying that is interactive. In order to help work through these new questions, teachers across Kansas have started interacting by using social media platforms such as Facebook. Using methods such as a Kansas Educators Facebook Page, where teachers can leave comments or questions, and utilize technology to work together during this time of social distancing. In addition, the College Board has considered the concerns of teachers and students, and has begun to increase their online presence by offering live streams of classes each day.