College Board issues new information about AP exams format

Oak Park administrators working to create a new timeline, structure for AP Exams

Click here to access an Oak Park High School-tailored AP Exam interactive graphic

With the status of the format of AP Exams still up in the air, the College Board has issued an update allowing schools to make decisions concerning the testing for their school. Oak Park administrators are working to make this possible, but final decisions have yet to be made.

“Rather than offering a single testing approach that would only serve some teachers and educators well, we are offering a variety of testing options that reflect the unique characteristics of each exam and the preferences we’ve heard from AP teachers, coordinators, and school leaders,” the College Board wrote on the AP 2020-21 Updates page.

There are currently three options available for schools: digital at-home, digital in-person and a physical pen and paper in-person option.

“For most of the exams, the school is going to have the flexibility (based on whether they’re back in session or if they’re doing distance learning), but there are all a small subgroup of exams that must be taken in-person, and cannot be taken at home, and those are the language exams,” Assistant Principal Natalie Smith said.

Regardless of the decisions made on where exams will be taken, Smith explained that the actual format of the exams will be the same for all students, the only difference being the actual questions being posed.

In addition, the College Board has altered the timings of the exams in order to limit academic dishonesty amongst students in different states or countries.

“If students are taking it at home, then all students across the nation have to start at the same time…That’s one thing that the College Board started doing this year after some feedback last year because the staggered times, I believe, led more to academic dishonesty of students in one part of the nation sharing it with friends before another state or time zone,” Smith said.

Smith clarified that Oak Park is still unsure of which AP Exams will be offered at home versus in-person, aside from the foreign language exams, but is in high hopes that a better outline will be soon created and announced to students and parents.

“We have to have sign-ups by the end of the month because we have to put in our official order to the College Board in early March…I want to say it’s mid-April to alert the College Board to our decisions,” Smith said.

However, the comfortability of students and parents is an important factor as Oak Park attempts to conduct in-person exams.

“If we would like to assign a student to the digital exam… the deadline for the College Board is seven calendar days before the digital exam date,” Smith said.

The decision will be made based on the school’s ability to safely facilitate students on-campus according to the COVID-19 cases and number of students signed up to take the exam. Once the school is able to make a decision based on the necessary safety precautions, students and parents will be contacted to make sure there are no special cases regarding health risks. 

“We’ll have social distancing, all students will have to wear masks, everyone would have to go through a screening process and temperature checks, everyone would need to have their health forms up to date and on file,” Smith said.

Most of the test proctors for Oak Park High School have been guest teachers, campus supervisors and parents as opposed to teachers. This eliminates the difficulty of staff members with health risks being required to be on campus because there are more options for test proctors. Teachers would not be used for AP testing, which differs from the protocol for state testing. 

“We would need to determine which of our prior proctors feel comfortable coming in for an in person proctorization if we are able to do those, and then we would work from there,” Smith said.

After having spent nearly a year engaging in distance learning, students at OPHS have concerns of their own when it comes to returning to campus for exams.

“In the end, I think that it would be better to take the AP exams at home this year, and when the chance of spread has significantly decreased, then we can plan to return,” junior Kashish Rai said.