APs on Paper Add to the Pressure

By Saanvi Mirchandani and Olivia Wong


With testing season rapidly approaching, many students are left confused and anxious about the fate of their college credits. Recently, the College Board has announced plans for the 2021 AP exams, which has sparked endless debate and controversy among students, teachers and administrators alike.


This school year has been nothing close to normal and has presented endless challenges for teachers and students. Everyone involved had to adjust to a new way of learning; teachers taught students who were at home and in school at the same time. In addition to the fact that many schools had shortened periods, technology issues were always present and some teachers lost full days of classes due to internet problems. AP classes are normally taught at a very quick pace since there is an ample amount of information to cover before exams in May, but this year, classes were not able to move anywhere close to the speed in prior years.


There were various delays at the beginning of the school year as everyone was adjusting to a “new normal,” and some school districts such as New York City public schools pushed back the first day of school to the end of September. Teachers had to find new ways to assess students since traditional in-school tests were no longer an option because the majority of students have chosen to learn remotely. Many students who opted to stay home have not been in a classroom since schools shut down last March, which has obviously affected learning.


...students are understandably worried about the testing season because they know that their class may be far behind in curriculum...

In response to these concerns, College Board leadership has organized three “administrations” for students to take the tests on paper in school, digitally in school, or digitally from home. These administrations will span across the entire month of May and the first two weeks of June; however, Administration 1 will only have exams on paper in person. It is up to the individual schools to choose which tests to offer during which time period, since not all of the tests are available in each administration. For example, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, and Physics are offered on paper at school in Administration 1 and 2, but are not offered remotely until Administration 3, which is in June. In addition, all language exams, including Spanish Language and Culture, will have to be taken on paper at school.


It should be noted that the College Board has evidently worked hard to accommodate students for every scenario. Since colleges have made it clear that they will not accept any simplified versions of any AP tests as credits, the organization was placed in a tough spot. Despite this, their continual release of educational videos from teachers across the country as well as the plethora of practice questions have served as solid resources for students.


Source by Olivia Wong

APs are now on paper, differing from shortened digital exams in May 2020. Tests will now resemble those of prior years in terms of length and content.


Nevertheless, students are understandably worried about the testing season because they know that their class may be far behind in curriculum and not ready in time for May. Even though there are administrations offered at later dates, the digital version of the exam may cause some difficulties as well. Last year, many were plagued with WiFi issues and submission problems, resulting in a retake of the test in June. It is inevitable that students will run into similar complications this time around, which will heavily contribute to already growing amounts of stress.


Another disadvantage of online exams is that test takers are unable to revisit previous questions, which affects many students’ testing strategies. If taken digitally, students are not permitted to submit handwritten answers this year, which is particularly challenging for those who will take math and science exams online. A major obstacle that students may have to face is the essential need for a computer or laptop to take online AP exams, since a camera will be required to identify the test taker. As a result, no iPads or smartphones will be viable devices to use, which leads to many difficulties not just in NHP, but the entire country.


A major obstacle that students may have to face is the essential need for a computer or laptop to take online AP exams...

One factor to acknowledge is that tests are being administered three different times. With so many varying versions of the exam, it is nearly impossible to guarantee that a test from Administration 1 will be the same level of difficulty as one offered in Administration 3. There is reason for uneasiness because in May 2020, people were given diverse topics, leading to an unfair advantage for the ones who received an easier question. The different versions of the tests also cause students to be worried about how the exams will be curved and scored on the 1 to 5 scale.


Ultimately, the College Board has stated that school administrations are tasked with choosing the dates to allow students to take these exams. For NHP students, this means that Sewanhaka Central High School District administrators are responsible for these crucial decisions. The school district has decided that students will be taking the exams on paper, in person during Administration 1, which starts on May 3. Students that have health and safety concerns will be given the option to take exams at home.

The district’s decision to offer majority in-person testing presents a variety of positives and negatives.


Pros:

  • There is an equal opportunity for all students to succeed.

  • Students do not need to be worried about potential technology issues.

  • Students can revisit questions they have already answered in order to check their work.

  • The exams are guaranteed to be accepted by colleges for credit, unlike digital exams.


Cons:

  • Students may not be fully prepared by the week of May 3, since classes are already behind.

  • Students may be taken aback by taking a test in person, since many have been remote the entire year.

  • Students may not feel comfortable coming into school because of their parents’ decision or their own underlying health conditions.

  • There is a possibility of spacing issues due to social distancing guidelines for popular exams like AP World History or AP Language and Composition.


Safely administered in-person exams seem like the least problematic option. Exams in a proctored setting ensure that all students are completing their tests fairly and there is no need to worry about any technology issues. Taking an exam in person also provides a distraction-free space for test takers, allowing them to focus on their work. However, one major concern is how COVID-19 guidelines will be followed with so many people in the school. As of right now, the plan is for each subject to be taken in the gym, since it is an open and well-ventilated space. There would be enough room to adequately socially distance the classes with the largest enrollment, such as AP US History with around 150 students. After each test, the desks would also be sanitized. The community needs to trust that the district will follow all guidelines from the CDC and Nassau County Health Department.


Once the College Board releases more information, students and their families will be looking to the district for guidance and transparency, especially because there are so many concerns and questions about the process. We must communicate with our teachers and administrators to ensure that we are in the best possible position during this time in terms of curriculum, resources, and safety precautions.