by Jackie King
After the 2020 Advanced Placement (AP) Tests were moved online due to coronavirus, and students who had spent their whole year preparing for a specific kind of test had to retrain their minds in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the majority of U.S. K-12 schools to stay online through the fall semester. Even with these unprecedented circumstances, the College Board has decided to continue with the usual AP testing format. With the current unpredictable state of the world and the majority of students learning in a brand new way, the College Board should at least attempt to adjust these tests to be more appropriate for this uncertain year ahead.
The College Board is well known throughout the U.S. for being greedy, asking families to pay hundreds of dollars in order to take exams that are encouraged by most colleges in the U.S. and help students increase their chance of acceptance. Usually, these tests cost 94 dollars, and even if a family qualifies for the College Board’s fee reduction, people still have to pay 53 dollars. Despite the fact that nearly all schools are now operating online or in some kind of hybrid version for the coming 2020 test-taking season, College Board decided to move full steam ahead, stating the AP tests will be the same as any other season and also raising the base test fee by an extra 1 dollar, making the total 95 dollars per AP test.
Although the College Board business has always been under fire for its high prices, this is not my concern for the 2021 AP test season. What I, along with many other students across the U.S., are worried about is how we are going to learn all of the information necessary for a high score on a regular AP test without a normal in-person learning environment.
With in-person school, teachers can ensure they prepare students as best as they can based on past learning experiences and all of the information they have gathered by teaching previous classes. In contrast, the online environment is new to both teachers and students, forcing both parties to find different ways to instruct and learn, which is a struggle for everyone involved.
For starters, online learning makes it extremely difficult to accurately emulate test-taking environments. When students and teachers are present on campus, educators can give students an accurate replica of the AP test, and pupils can practice it over and over again, ensuring they are ready for the exam. Sadly, in an online environment, it is very difficult to accurately replicate the test because students’ homes are filled with distractions, and many are filled with technology they could use to cheat on these practice tests, something that is nearly impossible to do in a real AP test environment. In addition, many schools have reduced class time for the well-being of the students during online learning, giving teachers less time to supply students with necessary test information.
In addition, the U.S. has not yet eliminated the coronavirus and, in many areas, numbers of confirmed cases and deaths are still rising. The New York Times reported that there were around 41,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day during the past week in just the U.S. alone, a 7 percent increase from the 36,000 daily average the previous week. Furthermore, Dr. Simon Clark, a professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told CNBC that “it is not an unreasonable hypothesis to think that it will get worse in the winter,” showing that the likelihood of students returning back to school in the near future is low.
These factors also affect underprivileged families far more severely than wealthy families. Although some people may be able to afford tutors, extra practice books, and more resources to try and reach a higher score despite current restrictive circumstances, other students do not have these opportunities. Again, although the College Board is already known to favor wealthy and privileged families, the current events increase the gap between the lower and upper classes.
Because of these unparalleled factors that vary between state, district, and specific schools, the College Board should not expect students or teachers to be able to prepare as well for a three-hour long test exactly as they would when people are on campus. College Board, with a yearly revenue of around $750 million, has the tools and ability to adjust their exam to better fit these circumstances.
(Sources: NY Times, CNBC, CollegeBoard)