AP prep pandemonium

AP exams should not immediately resume as full-length assessments but instead gradually return to their pre-pandemic state.

AP exams have always been an appreciable event, but this year even more so, with exams modified with the pandemic. Yet exactly what will these new modifications entail? | Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff 

Dreadful are the weeks leading up to the Advanced Placement tests. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike traverse their AP classes, tediously reviewing material covered from two semesters’ worth of curriculum in anxious preparation for a four-hour exam. Typically, students across the United States would expect to be seated for the tests during the first two weeks of May; that is, however, following a somewhat conventional school year. Administering the 2020 AP exams was a demanding task for both school districts as well as the College Board. LMSD guided their students to the best of their ability, attempting to navigate BlackBoard Collaborate Ultra or Zoom in order to cram a few more study sessions for students before test day. The College Board also attempted to maintain the integrity of the AP exams by proctoring them virtually, but were forced to trim the test itself to only 45 minutes each. All exams were also open note, lacked multiple units of curriculum, and were primarily made up of a couple free-response questions, without covering much of the content that students had expected from their fall and spring semesters. This year, because of the circumstances surrounding the mixture of both physical and online classes, students are expected to take AP exams in-person on paper, but in a shortened format.

There is a stark difference between the 2020 AP exams with a strictly digital 45 minute format and the 2021 AP exams that are meant to emulate an ordinary test.
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In previous years, excluding the 2020 AP exams, LM students would gradually enter the Downs Gym, across from the main campus in the Administration building. They would sit anxiously, each placed at their own desks, waiting to undergo three to four hours of a labor-intensive exam that tested their knowledge of an entire school year’s worth of curriculum. In 2021, the College Board has decided to offer the test on three separate occasions. They claim that adding these test dates with differing variations of digital and paper exams will help students globally in their assessment period and future college applications. The College Board determined each testing window, but each respective school selected their testing dates and the according exam formats. Specifically, LM chose to administer the test in “Administration 2,” which extends from May 18 to 28 both digitally and on paper. Although including an extra two and a half weeks of review would definitely be helpful for teachers and students alike, preparing for the same test that would have been proctored in past years is simply unrealistic. For the 2020-2021 school year, students have been exposed to a diverse array of class models. From a four-class virtual schedule beginning at nine a.m. with leisurely thirty minute breaks, back to the rigorous six-class schedule with one half hour lunch break, students have been forced to acclimate to each school day as it is given to them. There also arises a variety of issues involving seniors. Despite having a substantial amount of sophomores taking AP exams, one can still find most seniors participating in a few tests themselves before departing and finalizing their senior projects. Having seniors prolong their school year and continue learning well into the final weeks of the year will most certainly take away from their senior projects.

While these exam changes have been intense for those in the LM community, this type of variability, alongside the pandemic, should be taken into account with the final AP exams. Moreover, considering that students generally learn more while physically in front of their teachers and material, expecting them to absorb each aspect of the curriculum as if it were a standard school year is not viable, especially recognizing that most LM students are taking advantage of [email protected] and do not have the opportunity to reap the benefits of in-person classes. Even though more challenging classes such as AP Physics C: Mechanics have removed a few of the final units in order to accommodate the school year, all AP exams should have been condensed by a few units or a section to alleviate the stress caused by the lack of normalcy. There is a stark difference between the 2020 AP exams with a strictly digital 45 minute format and the 2021 AP exams that are meant to emulate an ordinary test. Additionally, most classes are reducing the amount of regular assessments throughout the year, and without midterms to cumulatively test the knowledge of students, it has become more difficult to prepare students for the testing environment that will be present in May. Although AP tests are a proper evaluation of meticulous comprehension of material, students should be progressively reintroduced to the full-length exams as the vaccines continue to be distributed and the pandemic subsides.