AP Exams Go Virtual

Ella Hurlbert

Staff Writer

Exams for students in Advanced Placement (AP) courses will be completely virtual, with the exception of AP foreign language exams, to guarantee safety for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent months, Henrico County has worked with the College Board and Freeman High School to come up with a plausible and fair method to administer end-of-course AP exams. The decision to make almost all AP exams virtual was announced to students and teachers during the first week of March. Included in the decision was a new testing schedule in which all exams were pushed back anywhere from several days to several weeks.

AP exams will now occur from May 18 to June 10. Students are to log in to their digital exams from home and arrive in-person for AP language exams at least 30 minutes before the start of their test. All exams will begin at either noon or 4 p.m. (except for exams in AP Spanish, which begin at 8 a.m.).

The new schedule has been a subject of debate among students, garnering both support and criticism with its timing. Of a group of ten anonymous Freeman AP students polled, seven of the ten agreed that taking the exams later would be a blessing for students. One student explained that their “classes are so behind” on learning curriculum, and later exams would give time to fully learn the curriculum. However, another student stated that it’s “really annoying” to have AP exams so close to the last week of school.

The idea of not only testing on computers but of testing from home came as both a relief and a stressor for students.

“It can be difficult to take tests from home due to noise levels from […] family members,” said Aubrey Walker, a junior enrolled in four AP courses. “At least in-person, it is […] a quiet testing environment.” 

However, 80% of students polled claimed to have a good testing environment at home. Sophomore Grace Montgomery will be taking her first AP exams in Human Geography and European History from home this year. “It’s a little bit nerve-wracking [taking exams virtually], but I feel like it will be easier to concentrate,” she said. “I’m nervous, but not any more so than I would be if [exams] were in-person.”

Technical issues have also proven to be a stressor regarding digital AP testing. “I had technical difficulties with my virtual AP […] exam in the spring of 2020,” said Aubrey Walker. “It negatively impacted my score.”

Computer issues would be particularly problematic for AP foreign language exams. “French [exams] require responding to a prompt with very precise times out loud.  It would be really hard to do that virtually, especially since there might be technical difficulties,” said Aidan Gibson, a junior in five AP courses, including French, one of the only exams to be given in person. “Out of all the exams to take in-person, French makes sense,” Aidan said. “I’m not sure I’m happy about it, but I at least get why.”

While the possibility of technical issues is daunting, students remained positive when facing the new exam format. 80% of students polled wanted to take AP exams virtually, with an identical 80% believing that testing from home would result in easier exams.

“Overall, I’m happy about the online AP exams,” Aidan said. “It would be really difficult to safely social distance big tests like [the AP exams].”

“It’s a difficult situation, but hopefully virtual AP exams will be more efficient in the spring of 2021,” said Aubrey.

Information about AP exam dates, schedules, and test format can be found through the College Board website on a student’s “My AP” page.  Teachers and counselors at Freeman are also valuable resources to help students prepare for exam day.

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