Navigating the 2020 AP® Exam Accommodations: What It Means for Students

by Heather Garcia

Kids all over the world are preparing for their online AP® Exams, and it is a first—for students,  teachers, testing coordinators, and even the College Board. It is safe to say that many of us are entering into this new testing era with a bit of tension (and a whole lot of preparation).

It is important to consider how this new testing will affect students who qualify for accommodations due to a disability or medical condition that affects their ability to perform on their AP® Exams.

The most important point to note is that students who have College Board-approved testing accommodations will still be given their accommodations—even within this new testing platform.

The most common questions I see in online forums about accommodations involve extended time. The College Board has assured us that students with approved accommodations for extended time will have their timer automatically set for their specific accommodations. This means that when the test closes for most of the world, students with accommodations may have 50% more time or 100% more time remaining in their exams.

Within that extended time period, students can take as many breaks as they need. They just need to be aware that the timer will not pause for them during a break. Their breaks should be short so they can get back to their test as quickly as possible. The extra time built into the tests is intended to include any necessary breaks.

Many students require paper-based testing on state-level exams due to their IEP plans, and this had never been a concern for AP® testing because they had always been paper-based.  But now, with the coronavirus keeping us all sequestered in our homes, the paper-based test is no longer an option. Thankfully, the College Board has made sure to iterate that:

  • The test can be printed, so students do not need to read text on a screen.
  • The font size can be enlarged from size 14 to size 20.
  • The test can also be read to students using a screen-reader if such an accommodation has been approved.
  • If the student’s technology isn’t set up for screen-reading and the student is approved for that accommodation, a family member can read the test to the student taking the exam.

When it comes to writing responses, the different modalities for uploading the writing lends itself to students with accommodations. All students can choose to type or handwrite their responses, and many students with accommodations will be more comfortable writing their responses by hand. Students who choose to handwrite their exam will need to:

  • Write on white paper.
  • Use a dark pencil or dark blue or black pen.
  • Write their AP® ID number in the corner, as well as their initials and the page number. (Students need to be aware that they are only able to submit five photos of their work, one page per photo. Therefore, students cannot write more than five single-sided pages for a single response. These handwritten options are available for all students, regardless of accommodations.)
  • Students are also able to utilize voice-recognition software to assist in typing their responses, or, if previously approved, they are allowed to have a scribe assist them in writing their responses.

The College Board has made every effort to ensure that student accommodations are met, even in the face of paradigm-shifting test administration. The overhaul of these tests was expensive and fast, but the needs of the students were taken into account, and students who have worked all year to earn college credit will have their opportunity to show the AP® readers, their teachers, and themselves what they have learned.

To learn more about how students can get ready for their at-home test day, check out this article.


Heather GarciaHeather Garcia is an English teacher at Charlotte High School, Florida, where she teaches AP English Literature and AP® English Language. She is a professional development leader in her district, running annual new-teacher trainings and is now the Curriculum and Instructional Specialist for her district for grades 6-12. After 16 years of hands-on experience, Heather has developed a series of strategies to help her students navigate challenging texts. Her favorite book is the Steinbeck classic, East of Eden.