The College Board’s decision to make major changes to Advanced Placement testing this year was controversial but an important step in the right direction.
This year, exam security, equal access to resources and the time allotted for testing are some of prevalent arguments against holding AP testing. But between the three test options: cancel, postpone or keep going, the College Board chose to adapt this year’s AP tests to fit the conditions the coronavirus required.
For their consideration of students, adjustments to the testing situation and valuing fairness, the College Board seems to have done its job as a testing corporation. And for that, they should be commended.
After lockdowns to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus first started in mid-March, one of the first updates the College Board sent out to students registered to take an AP exam included explanations for why it would continue to administer tests in May and the options that students had when it came to AP testing.
According to the College Board, they surveyed 18,000 AP students and 91% of students still wanted to take their AP exams, which urged them not to cancel them.
Collecting the opinions of students and using the results of that survey to make a decision about whether or not to continue administering AP exams was an important step in considering student opinions. That decision also paved the way for the implementation of adaptations to the normal AP test.
As a result, the three major changes to AP testing include moving the test online, allowing open-notes testing and shortening the duration of the exams.
The College Board has adapted AP exams so they take only a quarter or less of the normal time. Changing the material so AP exams will test understanding instead of surface-level knowledge of facts learned earlier in the school year is a significant modification.
The College Board has said that reasons for shortening the testing window include the challenges of preventing cheating and creating a good testing environment.
All over the internet, people such as college counselors and student YouTubers have criticized the change in comments claiming it is not fair for students’ mental health, international students, or online access for disadvantaged students.
However, with the options they had, the College Board picked test alterations with strong reasoning behind them. These solutions have flaws such as essentially remaking the test, but still allow students to have the opportunity to take AP exams this year.
The College Board has also done well valuing fairness when implementing these alterations.
It has taken additional measures to prevent cheating and created methods to help disadvantaged students. It has said that it designed this year’s AP tests with exam security in mind and adapted the tests accordingly.
The College Board also put an extra measure in place to ensure fair grading by having every student’s responses sent to their teacher for review. Letting teachers decide whether their students got the score they should have helps ensure any cheating on the part of students or mistakes made in grading can be reviewed.
The College Board has also created a survey for students who currently do not have a device to join a waitlist for receiving a testing device in June for AP makeup exams. Although the survey is already closed, this attempt to make access to testing equitable for all students deserves recognition.
While the College Board’s major changes to the AP exams may not be ideal for every student, changing AP tests to fit the less-than-optimal conditions caused by COVID-19 so students could still take their exams is a win-win. The College Board still profits from its test and millions of students receive the opportunity to take a test that they have spent months, or even years, studying for.
Ultimately, while choosing to administer the AP tests in a modified format is not a perfect solution, the College Board went with the option that had the most positive impact on the most people.