Tips for 2020 Online AP Exams

Thursday, April 30, 2020

AdobeStock_330645213Feel Confident About Your Exams This Spring

As schools transition to remote learning, the College Board has announced that the AP exams will be offered online for the first time ever in 2020.

For students who have been preparing for these exams since the fall, the sudden changes that are being made to facilitate online testing can feel jarring, so we have compiled a guide of the most important information and resources for students during this time.

What do I need to keep in mind when taking my AP exam?
The College Board recently released some additional guidance after students had difficulty with the first round of AP exams. The College Board suggests that students:

  • Locate their e-ticket, which is emailed two days before each exam
  • Use a recommended browser, update it to the latest version, and disable plugins
  • Keep an eye on the time and begin their submission at the 5-minute mark
Students taking World Language and Culture exams, which begin on Monday, May 18, must:
  • Download the free AP World Languages Exam App (WLEA)
  • Set their device to “Do Not Disturb”
  • Check to ensure they have enough storage on their device

The College Board is also allowing some students to submit responses via email. From the College Board:

“Beginning Monday, May 18, and continuing through the makeup window, there will be a backup email submission process for browser-based exams. This option will only be available for students who were not able to submit in the standard process—and they must then email their responses immediately following their exam. These students will see instructions about how to email their response on the page that says, “We Did Not Receive Your Response.” The email address that appears on this page will be unique to each student. Any student testing between May 18–22 who can’t successfully upload their response through the exam platform or send it to us by email, will need to request a makeup exam.”

How are this year’s test different?
The most obvious change for this year’s tests are the timing. While AP exams usually last close to three hours, this year’s exams will be a mere 45 minutes. There will be no multiple choice section. The English and History exams will consist of a single essay question and the others have a 25-minute essay question and a shorter, 15-minute short answer question. The foreign language exams will have no written component and will be entirely spoken.

How will online testing work?
Students can take the online exams from their desktop or laptop, but they can be completed with a tablet or smartphone as well. They will have the option of typing their responses or writing them by hand and uploading a picture. Students who have been approved for accommodations will still receive these accommodations.

Of course, security is a significant concern with online testing on this scale. To maintain exam security, every exam will be given at precisely the same time around the world. This means that if a student in New York is taking the exam at noon, another student in Hawaii is taking it at 6am. The College Board is also implementing anti-plagiarism software and sending students’ answers to their teachers, who can identify any inconsistencies.

The exams will also be an open book format. This means that students will have access to all of their class notes when testing. Technically they will also have access to the internet, but the College Board made it very clear that they will not be able to simply Google their answers or use previous class work. Instead of simply testing recall, the exams will test students on their ability to connect, synthesize, and analyze the information they have learned throughout the school year.

Finally, the College Board recognizes that with the introduction of online testing, there will be some students who encounter technical issues. If students have issues with their technology or are unable to test for some other reason, there will be make-up dates offered in June.

How can students prepare?
While there are many resources out there for students prepping for the previous version of AP tests, the sudden change in test formats means that there aren’t numerous books and materials out there for students to practice with. They should however still look at the essay and short answer questions from previous exams and use these as a guide.

Because the College Board is aware that many students had their instruction disrupted by school closings and switches on online learning, they will not be expecting students to have learned all of the material on their original syllabi and will only be including material that students would have learned prior to the beginning of March. Students should check their Course-Specific Exam Information on the College Board’s website to see which units are eligible to be tested for on this year’s exams.

The best resource that students can use is the College Board’s YouTube channel. Course syllabi can be found here and each topic links to a video lesson. Every day, they stream online lessons for each AP course, which students can always re-watch at a later time to review. In the description of each video, students can find links to handouts and resources that correspond with that lesson.

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis means that students, teachers, parents, and colleges are all adapting to the changes that are happening every day. While the change in exam format can be intimidating and frustrating who have been working hard in their AP classes all year, these resources can provide some clarity and guidance for students and their families.


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