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  • Jillian Zolot

The Future of AP Tests

Imagine this: you haul yourself out of bed at 5 a.m. and drive one hour to a testing location; once there, you struggle to keep your eyes open through a grueling five-hour test. Not the ideal situation, right? Here’s another instance: you study for weeks on end, vigorously preparing for an exam that has the pressure on it of determining where you’ll go to college. Then, the night before the big day, you receive an email that the test is canceled. Or, even worse, you receive no email and find out from a “TEST CANCELED” sign on the front door of the building. Sadly, this is the reality of 2020-2021’s standardized testing.

As COVID-19 numbers skyrocket, abnormalities continue to grow for high-schoolers all over the globe. Due to the pandemic, many ACT and SAT testing locations are getting canceled or rescheduled far away. For example, my December ACT was moved from a location nearby to a school in Long Island. The drive was two hours long, so it was decided that I would stay overnight in a hotel the night before. This unfamiliar place was not the most comfortable way to spend my night before a huge test, but the alternative of waking up super early in the morning to drive two hours seemed just as bad, if not worse.

“Harvard University’s early action acceptance rate sank to 7.4% from 13.9%, while the number of total applicants hit a record high,” reports CNBC.

Obviously, stories like this one raise several concerns about whether or not standardized testing should be kept mandatory. Thankfully, many colleges and universities have chosen to go “test-optional,” allowing applicants to opt out of submitting a standardized test score. However, going test-optional poses some problems for the graduating classes of 2021 and 2022, as it expands the application pool, making it harder for applicants to get accepted into top colleges. For example, “Harvard University’s early action acceptance rate sank to 7.4% from 13.9%, while the number of total applicants hit a record high,” reports CNBC. In addition, in competitive school districts like Edgemont, there is always pressure to keep up with your peers. Since many students take advanced classes, perform well on standardized tests and do many extracurriculars, it feels like you must do everything in your power to not fall behind. Unfortunately, with this being the case, standardized testing still feels mandatory for many Edgemont students, despite it being optional this year.

On a different note, a positive change made this year by the College Board was the decision to cancel all SAT Subject Tests. This provoked a big sigh of relief from all high schoolers planning on taking these tests. A lot of the information put on SAT subjects tests is not taught in school. Consequently, many students have to self-study for hours in the weeks leading up to these exams, which are normally taken in the midst of the busy AP exams and finals season. Personally, I was planning on taking two SAT subject tests, one of them in the same week as my AP exam.

The next question to ask is “what is happening with AP’s this year?” What we know so far is that there are multiple testing dates, it will be both online or in-person, and that it’s a full three-hour test, unlike last year’s shortened version. Many people are concerned about how the College Board is going to distribute these exams fairly and equally. Due to COVID, each school is set up a different way, giving students from some schools an advantage over students from other schools. For example, each school cycles through classes differently, so students from one school might be going to AP Chemistry every day, while students from another school might be going to AP Chemistry only twice a week. Therefore, the students going to AP Chemistry every day are learning more material in class, which gives them an advantage when taking the AP test.

Another issue is how international exams will be administered. Last year, each exam occurred at the same time, regardless of the time difference. For example, the AP Government exam started at 1:30 a.m. for students in India and at 4 a.m. for students in China. Unfortunately, the College Board still states that “digital exams have synchronous start times worldwide, and automatically begin at the same official start time everywhere.” While paper and pencil exams have local start times for international students, digital exams still force students to take their exams at bizarre hours.

With the COVID-19 pandemic at play, nothing is certain; there is so much left unknown about the future, and circumstances are changing everyday, which makes testing and college applications even more terrifying. However, it is important to remember that everyone is going through this pandemic together and that no one will be penalized for their inability to do something due to COVID-19.


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