Changes to a major standardized test usually take months—or even years—to develop and are typically announced well in advance of the first official exam sitting.
Not so during a pandemic. On April 3, the College Board offered details about alterations to the AP tests it will administer this May. The changes were made due to school closures prompted by the spread of COVID-19—which in a growing number of states may last until fall.
Instead of the usual multiple-hour marathon of multiple choice and essay questions, this spring exams in most subjects will last 45 minutes and consist of one or two free-response questions. Students won’t work in neat rows in their school gyms or test centers; rather, test takers will be able to complete their exams at home, using any piece of technology available to them—computer, smartphone or tablet. They can even write their responses by hand and take a photo of the results to submit for scoring. (Students who need help accessing digital tools can contact the College Board with this form.)
While usual security rules prohibit students from bringing to a testing room much more than a few pencils, this year’s AP exams will be open book and open note. That’s similar to many college-level exams, the College Board said in its announcement about the changes.
“The exam format and questions are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online,” the nonprofit organization explained. “However, students taking the exams may not consult with any other individuals during the testing period.”
Exams will be held from May 11 through May 22. Makeup tests will be available from June 1 through 5. Each subject will be offered at the same day and time worldwide. For example, in Hawaii, exams will start at 6 a.m., while on the East Coast, they’ll start at noon.
Students who prefer not to take the exam this year can cancel at no charge (although the College Board notes that refund policies are determined by individual schools and test centers).
For a student weighing whether to sit for an AP test under these stressful circumstances, one big question might be whether colleges will accept the results of these somewhat improvised exams for credit.
The College Board isn’t making promises. But for now, the nonprofit says, “We're confident that the vast majority of higher ed institutions will award college credit as they have in the past. We've spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country that support our solution for this year's AP Exams.”