As the end of the year approaches, students dread the upcoming AP Exams set to take place in June. Due to COVID-19, the administration of the test has changed drastically. All AP Exams except for AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP French Language and Culture, and AP Music Theory are being given completely remote. Despite being remote, exams such as the AP U.S. History Exams have maintained the same format and content as previous years. However, others such as AP Physics tests have undergone changes. The test has 90 multiple choice questions and two free-response questions, which is more multiple-choice than in a typical year. Additionally, many of the questions are based more on concepts and ideas. With the new format, Brian Leverock, a senior at LHS, says, “Usually it is 90 minutes of multiple-choice and 90 minutes of open response questions, and this year it’s different for every class, and I think that’s going to be challenging because you have to learn all these different formats.”
As a teacher, Ms. Dawn Striker, who has taught various AP Physics classes, states, “The big difference I notice as a teacher is that because of our schedule change, we have less time with our students but the College Board is expecting us to teach the same material. So we have to go through the material faster, which is a little difficult.” Mr. Gideon Fischer agreed that the new schedule has made it challenging to prepare for the exams as well: “I think it’s basically more difficult for [the students] because it’s really hard to get writing feedback if you’re not in person.” He also notes that “it’s reduced the ability to use the textbook as much so they have to be more reliant on the review book itself. Given the fact that we started two weeks later and we only meet twice a week so we only have half the number of class meetings, it’s impossible to do the same thing.”
With a completely remote format, the question of academic integrity comes into play. Ms. Striker cautions: “I know how hard the College Board is working to keep students from being able to cheat so I think it will be difficult for them if they try to, and I’m cautioning my students not even to try because it’s very likely that they’ll get caught.” However, as a student, Leverock thinks that “teachers underestimate the lengths the students will go to cheat.” With remote learning, cheating has become a prevalent problem at LHS as well as with the AP Exams. At home, students can easily access their phones, the internet, and other resources to cheat. Mr. Fischer noted that cheating will “basically lessen [the exam]” in terms of its value to colleges.
Due to these changes, many juniors and seniors find themselves grappling with the decision to take the AP Exams or not. Over the past two years, fewer students have been taking the tests; in 2019, 528 exams were taken, while in 2020 432 exams were, and in 2021 only 393 exams are being administered. With a faster pace, many students find themselves feeling unprepared. Leverock observes, “I think that being at home, there’s more of a feeling of not retaining the material as well as when you’re in school for the whole year, and so I think students don’t feel like they know and are practiced enough with the material as they would be in regular years.” Teachers normally host in-person study nights to prepare for AP Exams but are unable to this year. This leaves students to self-study, especially seniors who end school on May 25th and won’t have the same experience of studying in class. Another factor in this decision to not take the exam is the continuing devaluation of standardized tests. Mr. Fischer explains, “Maybe people feel like it won’t be as valid of a measure. If it’s online, then how much faith are people going to give it in terms of colleges? What we’ve seen is an overall trend away from standardized testing over the last year as a result of the pandemic, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Ms. Striker notes that despite the decision to not take the AP Exams, the level of motivation in AP classes themselves has remained the same because “students who are taking the AP courses are taking them because they want to do well in that course, so you already start with a population who is motivated by something.”