AP Tests Undergo Revision

Frances Wu, Asst. News Editor

While many students know that the SAT is being redesigned and that the new version will be implemented starting the fall of 2016, many are unaware that certain Advanced Placement tests are also undergoing a change. For the 2015 AP exams, College Board has been hard at work, replacing old courses with new ones, updating outdated questions forms, and changing time constraints.

The three tests that will be altered for May 2015 are AP exams for U.S. History, Chemistry, and Computer Science A. For the new short answer section of U.S. History, which will ask students to respond to historical source material, students will have 50 minutes instead of the previous 45, and the DBQ section will be shortened by five minutes, meaning that the test will still be 3 hours and 15 minutes long. The new multiple-choice questions will focus on students’ ability to reason about historical evidence instead of having students memorize basic facts.

“Change is always good when it comes to standardized testing.  It is making the teachers more accountable for the material and [the] different style of questions will no doubt help Diamond Bar students,” AP U.S. History teacher Ty Watkins said via e-mail.

In Chemistry, the free response section will be lengthened by 15 minutes, making the total test time 3 hours and 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in Computer Science A, the GridWorld case study will be replaced by the requirement that students receive at least 20 hours of hands-on lab experience before taking the exam.

However, College Board isn’t stopping with these changes. For the following school year, the AP tests for Art History and European History will be redesigned, and a new class, AP Research, will be launched as the second and final part of AP Capstone, a new diploma program that will supposedly equip students with analysis and evaluation of information skills that to prepare them for college. The required course content for Art History will be lowered from over 500 works of art to 250, and European History will be outfitted with a new curriculum framework. College Board claims that these changes will promote in-depth learning instead of pressuring students and teachers to cover a large amount of material at a superficial level, thereby incorporating Common Core standards.

Furthermore, three new AP courses, Physics 1, Physics 2, and Seminar, were launched this school year. The two new Physics classes are replacing Physics B, and Seminar is the first part of AP Capstone. To help teachers prepare students for these updated tests, College Board has released new practice exams for 15 different subjects.

In addition to these subject changes, some basic regulations have also been altered. From now on, schools must complete seating charts for every exam that they administer, and the fee that each student must pay to take each test has been raised from $89 to $91.

College Board claims that AP is undergoing this redesign to ensure that its courses and exams are “aligned with best practices in college-level learning.” Each year, several subjects will be reformatted, and the new courses and exams will be designed to promote deeper understanding by providing a basic framework for each class so that students will have “ample opportunity during the school year to develop … understanding [of the subject] through sustained focus on key concepts.”