COMMENTARY: First ever online AP exams present challenges for students, but students are grateful for the chance to earn college credit

May 26, 2020 /

There’s no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has affected education in more ways than one. Schools all across the country were closed, and teaching transitioned to online.

One question many students had during this transition was how they were going to take their Advanced Placement exams.

 I was worried we weren’t going to be able to take the test. Students, like myself, worked and studied all year to take the AP tests in May for the chance to receive college credit. This college credit could save so many students thousands of dollars on college courses. 

Although other educational organizations, like International Baccalaureate, decided they will not offer tests this year, College Board, the creators of AP, announced in early April the AP tests would be offered online for the first time in AP’s history.

I was very happy when I learned of College Board’s decision to offer the exams and to have the chance to get credit.

I was scheduled to take four exams: AP Calculus, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Physics 1, and AP Spanish Literature and Composition. If I wasn’t given the opportunity to take these exams, I could have missed out on a lot of college credit.

College Board released more information on the tests daily. The tests were to be conducted online, each lasting 50 minutes, and students would be able to submit their responses in a number of different ways including copying text into the submission form; uploading documents; or attaching pictures. 

Because this was a new way to take the test, College Board held daily virtual live lessons and lectures to prepare students for the test. Hundreds of certified teachers and professors hosted these lessons on the College Board’s official YouTube channel. 

Although there was a lot of preparation to conduct these exams online, there were bound to be some problems, considering it was the first time.

As if AP exams weren’t stressful enough, being the first group of students to take online exams made things a little more stressful. I was worried about making a mistake or having technical difficulties during the test.

During my calculus test, my WiFi went down for a short period of time, and my work did not save. I had to reconnect my WiFi and then restart my work. It was a really stressful experience. Although College Board couldn’t control my WiFi situation, these are things that students had to worry about.

And I wasn’t the only one nervous about these exams.

“College Board shouldn’t have [administered] a test that would have so many technical issues,” said Mikaela Ortega, a student at Cesar E Chavez High School in Delano.

Ortega said she came across an issue with her English Language exam. She was writing on a Microsoft Word document, and the page suddenly refreshed, resulting in most of her work being deleted. Then she had to restart.

Monica Gonzalez, a senior at Cesar E Chavez High School thinks the organization could have allocated more time for the exams.

“The AP test could have been better, time wise,” Gonzalez said. “The time brought on stress and even anxiety to those who began to have trouble.”

Karen Mendoza, a senior at Cesar E Chavez High School, agreed with Gonzalez.

“The time limit provided for exams this year could have been lengthened a bit more, given the amount of questions,” Mendoza said.

I was lucky enough to have some quiet space while taking my exams, but not everyone was as lucky. I know others were not able to take their tests in good environments, and some were not able to concentrate with their home environment.

Although the online tests presented these challenges, many students were thankful for the opportunity to take the exams. Mendoza said she felt College Board did a great job preparing the students for the online test.

Mendoza said, “Given the circumstances, everything went smoothly.” 

Ortega thanks the College Board for still offering exams this year, because now she has the chance to use her scores for college credit and save money on college course.

I appreciate having the opportunity to be able to get credit through these AP tests.

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Parneet Sahota

Parneet is a youth reporter for South Kern Sol. She is part of South Kern Sol's Delano branch.