2020 AP Exams

College Board involved in major scandal amidst insufficient testing claims during COVID-19


Photo courtesy of The Guardian via Google Images

AP exam season is the time of the year long anticipated by students enrolled in AP courses, as it determines whether they receive any college credit for the year. Once the Coronavirus pandemic hit, questions immediately started circulating about what would happen with this notoriously known-to-be monstrous test. Rather than the 3 hour long, multi-sectioned test that was normally given to students, the College Board settled for an online, 45 minute free response question for all AP courses. Along with this already questionable version of the test, thousands of students across the nation experienced technical difficulties when trying to submit their answers. This ultimately resulted in a “class action lawsuit,” or a student formed lawsuit, that ended up suing the College Board for $500 million. This included all claims of students who experienced poor testing environments, not being able to submit, glitches, and even being kicked out of the test itself.

     Within the first week of testing, over 20,000 students had issues with submitting their tests. Battlefield senior Alejandro Molina states, “A friend of mine tried submitting their AP test five minutes before the time out and they had to wait the whole five minutes.” He continues, “The test didn’t end up submitting.” This is similar to what many other students experienced, and the College Board’s solution to this, at the time, was to just have students retake the test at a later date. Molina says that it was, “not at all the correct way of dealing with those students.” He goes on, “Students should have had the option to email the College Board their free responses. It’s not a handicap, it’s fair game.” This eventually did become an option for students in the later weeks of testing, but by then too much damage had already been done, with mass numbers of students having to re-face the stress that the first go-around of the exam caused them.

   This past May, almost immediately after testing started, the AP College Board was involved in a federal class action suit that would have cost them $500 million despite their claims of testing being successful by a group of students from California. Robert Schaeffer, the interim executive director of FairTest, an organization that deals with the fairness and accuracy in student test taking and scoring, tells Inside Higher Ed, “The College Board rushed ‘untested’ AP computerized exams into the marketplace in order to preserve the testing company’s largest revenue-generating program after schools shut down this spring.” He continues, “Even if only 1 percent of test takers could not transmit their answers because the College Board’s technology was not ready for prime time, at least 20,000 students were affected.” Although the College Board claims that 1% is an insignificant amount to be sued over, most students and parents can agree that it did not do those thousands of unlucky students justice.

     As AP scores have already been released and the new school year approaches, it seems that this controversy was nothing more than a hot topic that continuously died down as the summer passed. With no official apology from the board, students are left with no choice but to move on from the situation. Looking back on the experience, Battlefield junior Gianna Webb says, “I found it unfair that one’s entire year of learning is based off of one question.” She continues, “They could have easily added a multiple choice portion online, similar to the SOL.” This year’s test was only 1-2 FRQ’s, stripping the multiple choice and other sections that would normally be presented, depending on the class. This increased not only the pressure, but also the amount of anxiety students faced, as their college credit was now in the hands of just a few questions. 

     To sum it up, the 2020 AP exams presented a number of issues and inconsistencies. Whether the 2021 exams go back to the full in-person test, or they stay online again, hopefully, this was taken as a learning experience to administer a proper test for the coming year.