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AP Exam Updates New Digital System

AP exams are difficult enough as they are, as students incorporate many sleepless nights and the occasional evening swig of caffeine into their hectic schedules. Both Winsor’s and Belmont Hill’s administrations have been working hard to adjust to these AP exam changes brought by the pandemic. According to the College Board website, these new updates consist of three different administrations containing a mix of digital and paper exams.

At Winsor, Mrs. Markenson, Head of the Upper School, and Ms. Kirwan, Winsor’s Registrar, summarized the school’s plan: Winsor will be offering exams on campus within the multiple dates for each exam given by the College Board, there will be one day where students have the option to take the exam on campus. Additionally, the school is allowing for AP students to choose whether or not to take the exam. Mrs. Markenson said “Given that there are so many variables this year, we feel like each student needs to be able to make the choice that is best for [them].” At this time, Belmont Hill has not come to a firm solution on when to offer these new exams. Teachers have been gauging student opinions to make informed decisions, but in reality, the school administration has the final say. Mr. Smith, Dean of Studies, has stated to his students that teachers will be able to choose the administration that works best for their class. Belmont Hill will also need to decide if it will allow students to take the digital exams at home or in a proctored environment at school. 

The specific exam changes depend on each class. The College Board announced that for multiple subjects, those taken on their new digital platform will contain a different format. As an example, the digital AP Chemistry exam will have an additional 40 multiple choice questions while cutting 3 free responses questions due to the complexity of keyboard shortcuts. These changes between the paper and digital format have raised questions about the fairness and validity of those exams taken digitally. AP Art and Design is keeping a similar digital format to last year. For example, some of the major changes were extending the due dates for portfolios for around two weeks, and that students will not submit any physical works of art allowing for a digital scoring process. Winsor AP course teachers are working with their students to figure out the best way to help prepare for these updates including optional extra meetings on Wednesdays this spring. However, “there is really not one answer about prepping for the exams this year” states Mrs. Markenson. Unlike these few mainly digital AP subjects, most will be returning to their traditional AP exam format. 

Students should not worry about digital testing. A main concern of losing connection during the exam is addressed as the system will be able to handle short periods of time without broadband. One negative to digital testing is that students will not be able to return to an answered question nor go back and forth between unanswered ones. In response to the digital exams, Winsor’s AP Art and Design teacher Ms. Macaulay said that “I do not think it’s fair but it may be the only thing that the College Board can do unless they go to everyone taking it at home digitally. There are so many students taking AP courses who have been remote since last March and don’t have the ability to take the exam in person.”

Although it has been tough to foresee the bigger changes, both schools are working to accommodate these new updates, whether due to new dates or digital changes, into the AP curriculum. To find out more about the new AP Exam Administrations, head over to AP 2021 Updates – AP Central | College Board.

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