College Board Responds to COVID-19 with Major Changes to AP Testing

by Devon Campbell, News Editor

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to be a pandemic. The crisis has impacted many previously scheduled events, such as standardized testing. Shortly after the pandemic declaration, many testing centers scheduled to hold the March 13 SAT closed. 

Additionally, April ACT, May SAT, and June ACT were were all canceled. Students who were scheduled for SAT dates that have since been canceled will receive refunds. ACT Inc., instead of providing refunds, is simply rescheduling those who signed up for the April date. The next scheduled ACT is June 13. However, both the dates are subject to change depending on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Due to the limited number of test dates, all universities are changing their admissions procedures. Even such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, and Georgetown University have dropped their traditional requirement for SAT Subject Tests. Others like Tufts University, Boston University, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Oregon are making more radical changes by transitioning to a test-optional admissions policy.

College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) exams are also undergoing significant changes. Rather than the standard system of a paper exam with a multiple choice and free response section lasting a total of roughly three hours, students, this spring will take a 45-minute online exam with no multiple-choice section. The College Board is also providing two separate exam dates for each course. 

These exams, designed to be taken at home, will only cover topics that the College Board expects teachers to have reached by March. As a result, units that would be covered towards the end of the school year have been eliminated from the content of the exams. The following link provides the exam details for each AP class:

The content covered in each exam has also been reduced. “I appreciate the fact that the College Board truncated the content,” Upper School Social Sciences teacher Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel said. “Now there is less burden on both the teachers and the students to get to material that would be difficult through distance learning.” 

AP has also responded to the potential for cheating presented by at-home exams. “These exams will be open book/open note,” Senior Vice President of the College Board and Head of the Advanced Placement program Trevor Packer said. 

“They won’t test simple factual recall; instead, they’ll be focused on skills and thematic understandings.” 

“I feel the new format provoked more problems than it solves,” junior Zoe Miles said when asked about the structural shifts of AP tests. “The nature of an AP class necessitates a year of practice to memorize and strategize for specifically formatted end-of-year assessments. I am all for adapting to our circumstances as they change; however, I feel as though these specific adaptations have rendered the entire AP exam system redundant.”

This opinion appears to be a minority among students, as, according to a College Board poll, 91% of students were in favor of moving forward with a modified exam. “You’ve all worked so hard throughout the year, and you have been taking college-level courses. Most people wanted the chance to be able to take the exam and get credit” Dr. Pethel said. 

“The equity piece of this is unavoidable. There are so many schools where students don’t have internet access beyond a smartphone to be able to take an exam” “College Board has 

Despite the vastly different nature of the testing environment this spring and summer, colleges have yet to change their policies regarding AP credit. Additionally, many universities have released press statements assuring applicants that admissions boards understand the unprecedented circumstances students are currently facing.

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