Illustration by Catherine Buchaniec
When schools switched to e-learning in March, Evanston Township High School students gave up high school highlights like prom and the spring sports season. But they still faced Advanced Placement tests, which were administered online with structural changes.
Some students prepare for AP exams all year. High scores can translate to college credit, and can be used as a measure of a competitive college applicant.
In April, the College Board announced the hours-long exams would only be 45 minutes. The changes seemed like the best way to keep them intact. But for many test-takers, the result was less than ideal.
ETHS student Gabriella Glomp took four online AP tests. A rising senior, she’s concerned about how her test scores will affect her college application process.
“I could have done better if I was in school and it was normal testing, normal prep week, normal everything,” Glomp said. “At home, I was definitely limited in my ability to study and focus. I’m worried I didn’t perform at my best.”
Glomp was frustrated with the abridged test. While the exams were open-book, test-takers had to work quickly and carefully. Glomp’s AP English Literature and Composition exam, for example, was just one essay.
“That was one kind of essay that we’d done at the beginning of first quarter,” she said. “It wasn’t representative of the whole year.”
Additionally, some students encountered technological issues. Some tests required students to upload photos of their work, but when they went to submit their answers the website said the file types were inadmissible or uploaded too late.
Maya Wallace, a rising junior, took the AP Calculus BC exam this year. When Wallace completed the two-question test, she received an error message indicating only one question had been submitted. She’s still waiting on an email from the College Board about when she can retake the test.
“The content wasn’t the hard part,” said Wallace, who noted that her teacher provided her with lots of supplementary preparation material leading up to the exam. “It was more just frustrating to do all that work and then have it not count.”
College Board, the private company that administers standardized tests including the SAT and APs, has faced scrutiny for years, with some parents, students and educators arguing the lucrative tests should be deemphasized in college admissions. A class-action lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of students like Wallace, whose tests were riddled with technical glitches.
Isaac Slevin, who graduated from ETHS this spring and took three AP tests in May, said that he hopes the difficulty College Board had moving tests online will force high schools and universities to rethink the exams’ importance.
“Maybe this is the spark universities need to not worry about AP scores, and for high schools and students to not shell out hundreds of bucks every year for students to take the tests,” Slevin said. “I’m optimistic that this can create the wave of change that we all need to stop being dependent on the College Board.”
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