Due to the COVID pandemic and the complications of taking the AP exam, the College Board has decided to offer two different tests to two different groups of students. On one hand, students can take the test from a more relaxed, comfortable environment where outside resources will likely be available. On the other hand, an in person exam can give students the focus, stamina and timeliness to complete the exam and essentially, “get it over with.”
Both options offer pros and cons, and depending on the student, certain tests can be strategically chosen to be online or in person. For example, the online format of the AP English Language exam allows students to type the three essays that they are required to write within about two hours. This could be a huge advantage for students that tend to type faster than they write. This leaves more time to think, rather than spending a majority of the time writing by hand. However, to play devil’s advocate, there are studies that show the benefits of writing by hand, but the reality is, most students are so used to typing essays that it becomes almost impractical to handwrite them.
The downside to almost all of the online exams is the inability to switch between multiple choice questions. When students learn various test taking strategies, one of the most important tips that any adult will give you is to “come back to a question”. With new online exam rules, students will no longer be given the ability to check their answers, which can punish students for going too fast, or too slow. To add on, some online AP exams, such as the AP physics mechanics exam, have completely different formats than the in person exams. The online AP physics mechanics exam does not have a Free Response Question, and replaces this section of the test with another multiple choice section. While some students may rejoice at this prospect, many students will find the tricky wording, and the generic concepts of the multiple choice questions too difficult to understand.
Despite many of the complications regarding the differences between the structure of the AP exams, the most critical difference is the environment and the situation of this time period. Due to health concerns, there are many students that are unable or unwilling to take these in person exams. As a result, denying them of the opportunity to choose like many other students. Not only that, the huge discrepancies between in person and online exams will play a huge role in student scores because certain online tests can benefit certain students, while other students, who cannot take the in person exam, won’t be given the benefits other students receive.
Finally, online AP exams occur roughly an entire month after all of the in person exams are finished. Once again, posing questions surrounding the fairness of taking online and in person exams. It doesn’t seem to make sense why students who decide to take in person exams are punished for taking a test. Personally, I have decided to take my AP physics mechanics exam in person because my strong suit has always been free response questions, not the multiple choice questions. As a result, I am unable to study the extra month in preparation.
In conclusion, the College Board has created too many differences between the online and in person exams that choosing between them has become unfair and unjust for those that don’t have a choice. Between the choice of the students, and the lack of choice of other students, the College Board does not have the right to discriminate against preferences and health choices a student may make. It feels unjust when people feel forced to take certain exams online because of the advantages online test taking brings, rather than it being solely an environmental preference. Though this pandemic will pass, and this issue will disappear in the future, it is important to note the power the College Board has over these tests, and who has access to them.