Brahmas reflect on virtual AP tests


When quarantine began just one month before AP exams last year, changes had to be made in a very short amount of time, stirring uncertainty among both teachers and students. This led them to change to an online format.

For the majority of subjects, the 2020 AP exams consisted of only one free response section, as the College Board eliminated the multiple choice section and, for some exams, removed some free response sections. Traditional AP exams last anywhere between two and three hours, and have multiple sections including multiple choice and different types of free response questions. The new exam lasted a mere 40 minutes.

Amid fear about the College Board’s notoriously slow servers, the organization reassured students that they would be allowed to retake the exam if they faced connectivity problems. As exams began, technical issues plagued students  throughout the online test-taking experience.

“Technical difficulties were frustrating for many test-takers, and some even needed to take the same subject three times,” junior Alan Wang said via messages. “Also, the AP test questions only tested the knowledge on a small part of the entire curriculum.”

The new style of AP exam has also made students aware of what changes they may want to make in their preparations and studies for this year’s exam. 

“My plan is to just study as hard as possible and just treat it like an assignment,” junior Ethan Choi said. “I believe it will be harder though, because there are many more distractions, especially in your own home.”

AP European History teacher Emily Clark said the biggest challenge of distance learning for her is the lack of time she gets to teach her students skills that are necessary for the AP test.

Shorter distance learning classes means overall fewer instructional minutes,” she said via email. “The result is that a lot of the curriculum has to be cut.  In addition, we have less time for practicing the critical writing skills that are a big component of the AP test.”

The lack of time for dedicated instruction may leave students unprepared for the exam. Clark said  that over the course of the first semester, because of shorter classes, students will have the equivalent of 22 fewer days of schooling. 

“I try to be very purposeful in my assignments and also only assign homework when it is unavoidable,” Clark said. “Each week I try to do a “Fun Friday” activity such as a kahoot. My latest goal is to try and get students up and outside at some point during class each week.”

Despite concerns that the 2020 exams would be either more difficult or easier, the average scores on last year’s AP exams were only marginally different from previous years overall. At DBHS, too, scores remained consistent, as Clark said that the average overall score of her AP Euro class was about the same compared to previous years.