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COVID-19: AP Test Changes You Need to Know About

This year's AP Tests haven't been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there are some major changes you should be aware of. Learn more here.

Spring SAT test dates may have been canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but the show will go on for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams. In fact, when the College Board surveyed 18,000 AP students asking if they wanted to take their tests this year, the answer was “a resounding yes”—91% of students still wanted the opportunity to potentially earn college credit for their scores.

All AP Exams will be administered online from May 11–22, with makeup tests scheduled from June 1–5. Like almost every other aspect of life during the current COVID-19 crisis, there are some radical changes with testing format and execution that students should know about. 

Changes to the 2020 AP Tests

This year’s exams will be drastically different from those in the past. For starters, the normally three- to four-hour-long tests will be just 45 minutes each, with five additional minutes allotted for uploading answers. Only content students studied up to early March will be covered on each test; material from the last few units of a course won’t be included. Also of note: the new format will maintain an open-book policy, allowing students to access their textbooks and notes while taking their exams.

Types of questions

Because of all these changes, the questions on each AP Test have also been significantly modified. Multiple-choice questions (with answers that are easy to Google) have been eliminated, and most tests will ask students to complete one or two free-response questions or prompts to demonstrate their analytical and critical-thinking skills. Specifically, World Language and Culture tests will only feature speaking components since written responses could be easily copied and pasted into online translation websites. And as in the past, Art and Design students will have no year-end exam, but portfolio deadlines have been pushed back to late May. Students enrolled in multiple AP courses may take up to three exams per day.

You can find specific dates and times as well as instructions for what you’ll have to do for each subject here on the College Board site.

Related: The 5 Best Ways to Handle AP Exam Stress

Accessing the tests

Students will receive instructions and video demonstrations on how to access their online AP Tests and submit their answers in late April. Students can take the tests at home—or at school if yours is open in May—on your choice of device (computer, tablet, or smartphone). You’re also allowed to take a photo of your handwritten work and send it via cellphone. Students who don’t have access to the internet or the necessary technology to access their exams are encouraged to get in touch with the College Board before April 24, 2020.

Receiving your scores

Test scores are expected to be delivered as close to the usual July timeframe as possible, and it’s anticipated that most institutions will offer the same college credit and/or placement opportunities for high scores as they did in the past. 

Related: What You Need to Know About AP Tests, AP Scores, and Your Future College

Cheating prevention

Each test will be given at the same time in different time zones across the country; for example, a student in Hawai’i would take their test at 6:00 am while a student in Maine would take the same test at 12:00 pm. Other anti-cheating measures include the use of software to detect plagiarism and similar answers among students. Completed tests will also be released to AP teachers so they “can see if a student who has been mediocre all year is suddenly perfect,” College Board Senior Vice President Trevor Packer told the Los Angeles Times.

And penalties for cheating are severe; if a student is caught, the College Board may cancel a student’s scores, notify their school and colleges of interest, and/or ban them from taking future AP Tests. 

Test prep resources

Even though this year’s exams are open book, the College Board warns this is not an excuse to avoid studying. Students are encouraged to prepare for their AP Tests as they would any other year. Need help finding study resources? You can view free, on-demand, mobile-friendly lessons delivered by AP teachers from across the country on the Advanced Placement YouTube channel. You can also find coronavirus updates and course resources on the College Board website.

Related: 9 Study Tips to Help You Conquer AP Tests 

Unable to take your test?

According to the Washington Post, many students and teachers are concerned about the “digital divide” that could prevent disadvantaged students from taking AP Tests this year. If low-income students or those in rural areas are unable to access their exams—or if you’re not comfortable with online testing, have too many distractions at home, or don’t think taking the test is worth the added stress—you can take advantage of the new no-charge cancellation policy. Learn more on the College Board’s FAQ page, and be sure to get in touch with your AP instructor if you have any other questions or concerns.

Good luck to everybody taking their AP Tests at home! And remember, you can find a ton of AP study tips and other COVID-19 resources and updates on CollegeXpress.

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