Taking AP Exams in a Pandemic for the Second Year

Taking AP Exams in a Pandemic for the Second Year

Lily Grazioso, Staff Writer

When spring approaches, so does the grind. The AP Exam grind. 

Scituate High School offers 20 AP-Level Classes, all of which end in a final determining possible college credit. These exams are around three hours long, and most have a multiple-choice and writing section. Though most exams are paper-and-pencil based, the pandemic has led the CollegeBoard to approach the exams differently. 

Starting last year, the CollegeBoard created a testing app that allowed students to test right from their bedrooms, via computer. They also adjusted the tests to cover only what students most likely covered in the curriculum, removing the units that would have been taught mid-March through early May.

Many of last year’s exams had no multiple-choice, which skewed scores both ways. Many students got final exam scores both higher and lower than they expected, as the primary skills tested were writing and recalling important information. 

I took two AP classes last year, and I took both exams. This year, I took three AP classes and am only taking two of the exams. 

Personally, I benefited greatly from the two AP tests I took last year, and my scores took 16 credits off of my college degree requirement, meaning I have to take four fewer four-credit courses in college than some of my peers.

Though I won’t find out my scores for the 2021 exam year until July, my prediction is that I will score at least one point lower than last year, if not more. Due to the half-virtual nature of most of SHS’s 2020-21 academic year, it was harder to pay attention in class, retain information, and learn the same way from my bedroom that I did in the classroom. 

Obviously, doing well on the exam is beneficial for college-aspiring students. But what if some students who were taking tests at home cheated while taking the exam? The College Board has taken appropriate measures to prevent cheating, but is there a fool-proof way to make sure students are trustworthy? They have added anti-plagiarism software to their digital tests, which is also accompanied by a lockdown browser, prohibiting students from accessing other computer apps or the internet. Tests are also sent to the student’s respective teacher, and any major inconsistencies one might see in classwork versus exam work can be used to dispute the student’s score. 

In a survey of 35 students from SHS, approximately one-third opted out of taking one or more of their exams, and one student isn’t taking any, despite taking AP-Level classes.  Whether you’re taking an AP class for college credit or to boost your GPA, it’s safe to say the 2020-2021 exams are not the best final determination of your skillset in a specific class.