By Sebastian Squire
Graphic By Jane Wilson
For students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, spring is a time of counting down the few short months left until summer, and a time of dread as AP Tests begin to loom and studying begins to dominate more of their time. Like many things in 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 has disrupted the typical protocols and processes of an AP test. The goal of this article is to emphasize what is known about the 2021 AP tests and help assuage any anxieties regarding the unique protocols of the tests to come.
For those who do not know, an Advanced Placement class is a college-level class offered to high school students, that follows a specific curriculum written by the College Board, the organization who coordinates the standardized tests. Due to their increased rigor, these classes are weighted on a 5.0 scale (as opposed to a normal 4.0 scale). This means a B in an AP class is weighted to an A, a C to a B, and so on. Students who take these classes also have the option of taking a test at the end of the year, known as an AP test, which allows the students to receive college credit for their course. These tests are weighted on a scale from one to five, with a five being the highest and one the lowest. If the student receives a score of three, four, or five, they are able to receive college credit for their course (with a select few colleges only accepting a four or five). A passing test grade can save money and allow students to graduate college earlier.
According to a March 9 school wide survey conducted by The Page, 76.8% of students polled planned to take an AP Test, while 3.6% were enrolled in AP classes but did not plan to take the test. The remaining 19.6% were neither enrolled in AP classes nor planned to take any AP tests. Also according to responses to the survey, 71.4% of students were not planning to apply for financial aid for AP test fees, while 7.1% were planning to apply. 21.4% of students were not planning to take an AP test at all. In terms of perceived preparedness, senior Alexandra Osorio explained, “I actually feel pretty prepared for the AP tests this year! I thought that with quarantine I wasn’t going to be able to learn or absorb any information but I find that I actually feel fine.” She did say however that she felt, “slightly less prepared than I did in the years when we were preparing for the AP tests in person but I do feel a lot more prepared than I did for last year’s AP tests.” Las Lomas junior Arav Mistry felt less prepared for this year’s AP tests, stating simply, “I do not feel prepared.” Mistry was also disappointed in communication from the school surrounding AP tests this year, saying, “The school has communicated a minimal to no amount of communication in regards to AP [testing].” Osorio was also underwhelmed by school communication around tests, “I know when [AP tests] are supposed to be, and whether or not they are online or in person, but other than that I don’t know much about them. For example, I’m still confused about the formatting of the tests and the logistics of doing them online and in person.”
AP tests this year will be both in person and online, and will be divided into three groups: Administration 1, Administration 2, and Administration 3. They occur in order of their numbers with Administration one kicking off the year with fully in-person exams scheduled for May 3-7, 10-12, 14, and 17 per the College Board’s Website. The second administration had the options for both online and in-person exams, and will take place May 18-21 and 24-28. Finally, the third takes place from June 1-4 and 7-11 and is also both online and in-person. It is also important to note that an exam is only offered once per testing administration, and will not be offered as both an in-person and online test during the same testing administration. Although online testing options are available, Las Lomas has signed up all AP students for in-person exams which can only be adjusted if a student individually requests. Perhaps most importantly, all exams will be full length exams this year, as opposed to the abridged exams of last year. Despite small formatting differences, the online and in person exams should be very similar. Online exams will also be subject to testing security, including but not limited to plagiarism checkers, post exam review, and exam questions designed to be difficult on which to use internet searches and notes. Additionally, once a student goes past a question, they are unable to return to it on the online exam. While the College Board has released some information surrounding AP testing in 2021, much more information will be released in the coming weeks and months as the day of reckoning approaches AP students around the globe.