AP exams this year: 45 minutes, online, and focused on early-year content

Students in Advanced Placement classes will be able to take the end-of-course exams, the College Board announced Friday — but the tests will look very different than usual.

There will be no in-person exams. Instead, tests will last 45 minutes and be able to be taken at home using a computer, tablet, or phone. Photographing handwritten work will also be an option, according to the new guidance.

The tests will also only cover a portion of the courses’ content — “topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March,” the College Board said. Each test will be offered on two dates.

The fact that the tests will be given at all — and won’t cover an entire year’s worth of material — will come as a relief to some students, who have seen the school year upended as schools nationwide close in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“All I am is worried. I’m worried that I’ll fail my AP World History exam in May,” Savannah Storms, a student at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Colorado, said earlier this week. “I don’t know if I should study stuff we’re learning now, or the whole year.”

The testing is likely to concern some students and teachers, too, given the uncertainty around whether schools will return to regular operations at any point this year and students’ varying access to virtual learning. The College Board says it will be ramping up its online practice options to help students with more limited access to their teachers while schools are closed.

Some teachers worry this will disproportionately affect students with less access to technology at home.

Already, some AP teachers had said they planned to meet in small groups with students to help them continue studying for exams because they didn’t have access to devices or the internet at home.

It’s also unclear whether all colleges will be inclined to offer credit — a key incentive for students — for passing scores on a more limited test. “Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn,” the College Board says.

More information about individual subjects will be available by April 3. Students who want to cancel their tests won’t have to pay a fee.

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