Advanced Placement Testing Moves Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

By Sarah Schwartz — March 20, 2020 3 min read
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All in-person Advanced Placement tests have been canceled this year, the College Board announced on Friday. Instead, tests will be offered in 45-minute online exams, and students will have two date options to take each test later this spring.

The College Board has also extended the deadlines for portfolios in AP subjects that don’t hold in-person tests, to May 26.

The announcement is the latest development in a college admissions testing season that has been upended in response to the coronavirus. The College Board has also canceled multiple spring SAT test dates, and the ACT has rescheduled its April testing.

The new, modified AP exams will only cover content that most teachers would have covered by early March, according to the announcement. Content that will be covered for each course is listed on the College Board website.

“The health and safety of educators and students are the AP Program’s highest priorities,” Trevor Packer, the senior vice president of Advanced Placement and instruction at the College Board, wrote in a Tweet after the announcement. “We considered canceling AP testing this year, but 91 percent of AP students surveyed asked we not. So we’ll invest heavily to provide optional online daily AP review classes and at-home AP testing.”

Two dates will be offered for each test. The dates for the exams are scheduled to be released Friday, April 3.

Over the coming weeks, the College Board is also offering free, live review courses that cover material teachers would have introduced in the first 75 percent of the course and introduce new material.

Still, moving testing online raises equity issues for students who don’t have devices or internet access at home, and for students with disabilities who require extended time and other accommodations, said Jayne Fonash, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in an interview.

Students may also have different levels of experience and comfort with taking online exams, she said.

“I am sure that high school counselors around the world are concerned about how this will impact their students, especially those who are disadvantaged,” said Fonash.

Students will be able to take the at-home exam on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, according to the College Board’s statement. The announcement acknowledges the potential connectivity hurdles involved in an online testing administration.

“We recognize that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating,” the statement reads. “Working with partners, we will invest so that these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity, you can reach out to us directly to let us know.

Moving the test online, where students may not be in a physically proctored setting, also brings up security concerns, which the College Board plans to address with “a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software.”

“The at-home AP Exams this year will not include any multiple-choice questions, only free-response questions adapted for secure testing at home,” Packer Tweeted. “They will measure skills that can’t be learned from Google or chats with friends.”

Fonash said that she understands the implications of continuing with exams, given that many students rely on them for college credit.

Still, she said, “I would hope that the College Board might have a conversation with its high school members and its college members to discuss the possibility of simply canceling the testing for this year. And then we’re all on the same level playing field.”

On social media, responses from teachers were mixed. While some appreciated the opportunity for their students to demonstrate what they had learned this year, others pushed back against the decision.

“Where was this survey available?” Hayley Breden, a high school social studies teacher in Colorado, asked on Twitter, in regard to the questionnaire about canceling the AP exam. “Was it emailed to all AP instructors? I did not know about it; if I had, I would have passed it along to my students to help you get a larger sample size.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.