College Board Exams Change to Adapt to a Pandemic World, But is it Worth the Money?

The College Board Makes Changes to AP Exams Without Reducing Costs

Aidan Cocuelle, Staff Reporter, Senior

College Board has recently unveiled their new protocol for this year’s AP exams. The organization has made a few changes to how they normally administer their exams in order to adapt to the disruptions and hindrances to education brought on by the pandemic. The most salient changes are these: (1) two kinds of exams will be offered, and (2) on the digital exams (one of the two) test-takers will not have the ability to go back-and-forth between questions. In addition, there will be no cancellation fees, there will be one single testing window worldwide (meaning international students taking the exam may have to take the tests at inopportune times, possibly the middle of the night), and there will be what College Board calls “linking and equating.” “Pencil-and-paper” (in-person) tests and digital tests more “equal” by curving the scores to account for the disparities between the two tests.  Digital exams will be open notes, but the in-person exams won’t be, and test-takers can switch between questions but digital test-takers cannot.

Senior Dylan Alfalla said, “…skipping questions has always been a testing strategy that teachers and tutors frequently recommended and profusely swear by. This year we will have no choice but to either afford too much time for a question or get an answer wrong for the sake of time…”

Some students are concerned that these measures may be too burdensome and some wonder if—with these new alterations—the exams are still worth the fee of $94. AP exams essentially work as an ‘expensive lottery ticket’, while the test-taker can possibly earn college credit depending on the score they receive—there is no guarantee that they will. This year the odds of passing (that is, getting a high enough score to qualify for college credit) are slimmer due to the new measures.

The College Board has long been the target of criticism for the price of their exams. The tall costs of AP exams restricts the amount of exams low-income students can take, and not all schools are fortunate enough to have the ability to issue waivers. Now, with changes to the tests making it easier for kids with access to good wifi and better computers to take what amounts to an “open-book” test, while those who must take a traditional test following a different set of standards, some wonder if once again the “home field advantage” is going to those with the financial freedom to stay home to take the test digitally, something that many also consider to be far less stressful. If kids face less stress taking an exam, they have a better chance of doing well. Of late, multiple student-led petitions have developed, each calling for changes such as: lowering costs, awarding credit based on grades rather than scores, and allowing digital students to go back and forth between their questions.