Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 8

How the AP Plans to Avoid Cheating with Online Testing

by Josh Morgan

The coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives. One of the hardest-hit groups in terms of social change is students, and especially high school students. Not only are most high schools significantly less prepared to transition to online learning that a college or university, but many of the steps for getting into college have been drastically affected and are changing.

A huge part of college preparation for students is AP tests, where students can cash in on their hard work from the year in their AP classes and possibly earn some college credit. The AP tests still plan to go on, just in a very different format.

For the first time ever, AP tests will be going online. However, for obvious reasons of cheating, there will be no multiple-choice section for the exams. The exams have been cut drastically in length and now will be merely 45 minutes long and consist entirely of free response questions (FRQs) or essays. Another interesting tidbit is that the exams will only cover material that has been learned through mid-March, with the College Board saying, “We know that some students have lost more class time than others, and we want to be fair to all students.”

However, this has been met with a mixed reaction. Some are happy that the exam has been shortened, others are worried that it won’t truly reflect academic achievement or that colleges will choose to ignore the scores, and some give the College Board credit for even managing to still hold testing during these crazy times. However, the most significant and plausible concern for the new testing system is the strong possibility of cheating.

The College Board claims to have very strong anti-cheating technology within their system, where they can detect plagiarism, collaborating with friends, and other forms of cheating. “We’re using a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software and post-administration analytics, to protect the integrity of the exams,” said the College Board in their recent post on their website about AP Exam Security. They claim that they designed the tests specifically to avoid cheating, and that people who are caught will face severe punishment, their scores being canceled and their high school being contacted to enact further discipline.

One has to wonder how effective these measures will actually be. For tests that involve writing, detecting cheating should be pretty straightforward. However, for some classes that don’t involve as much writing such as math classes, it can get a little trickier. For that reason, the College Board is likely going to try to implicate as much writing as they can into all of the tests.

The bottom line here is not to cheat on the exams. The College Board has been intentionally vague on how the tests and anti-cheating measures will be handled in order to hopefully encourage us all to practice academic honesty. It is our job as students to ensure that the College Board’s vision becomes a reality.