Understanding the April 3rd Updates to AP® Exams

by John Moscatiello

Today we received the long-awaited follow-up to the College Board’s March 20th announcement. I covered those changes in this article, where I outlined these major changes to the program:

  • The exams will only be administered online and can be taken on a computer, tablet, or phone.
  • The exams will be free-response only, and will last only 45 minutes.
  • The exams will not cover the final units of the Course and Exam Descriptions.
  • The exams will be offered on two dates and can be canceled for free.

In the weeks since the March 20th announcement, the College Board revealed some other information on their website and on social media:

  • The exams will be “open book/ open note.”
  • The exams will provide accommodations for students with extended time.
  • Some universities, notably the University of California and Yale University, have publicly announced they will support the new exams.

Today’s announcement contains a wealth of new information for AP® teachers and students. Some of this information was reviewed for AP® teachers in a College Board webinar on April 2 at 7 PM ET. You can access that webinar here.

These are the major changes confirmed today on the College Board’s website.

NEW TEST DATES

Polling data provided by the College Board has indicated that many students and teachers preferred the earlier exam dates, so they are offering exams from May 11th until May 22nd with backup dates in the first week of June. For a PDF with the full calendar of dates, see this article.

In a notable shift from earlier information, however, students will not be allowed to choose between two dates, and will automatically be enrolled in the earlier dates. If they want to take the exam on the later date (or need to because of technical problems), they will need to work with their AP® coordinator or school to take the exam on the later date. Also, only students who have already registered will be able to take the exam, and no new enrollments will be accepted. For more information, check the College Board’s website.

One very important note for international students is that each subject’s exam will be taken on the same day at the same time, worldwide. Unfortunately, this means that some students will be taking AP® Exams in the middle of the night. For more information and updates, please consult the College Board’s website.

EXAM SECURITY

A major point of concern about these new at-home AP® Exams is protecting the integrity of the exams. The College Board has revealed a number of specific tools for combatting cheating in this new format.

We have known for the past week that these AP® Exams will be administered in an open-book/open-note format. While having notes will be helpful for some AP® subjects, students will only have 45 minutes to complete their exams. Every minute spent inside of books or notes is a minute not spent reading questions or producing the answers that will earn points. Moreover, the questions “are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online,” according to the College Board.

Student responses will be filtered through plagiarism detection software and other undisclosed security measures. Students will not be permitted to consult other people during the exam. Crucially, teachers will also receive actual copies of their students’ work in order to further verify the validity of students’ contributions. This announcement about teacher participation was a surprise to many, and questions remain about how all these digital security measures will be implemented in the coming weeks and months.

For specific details and updates about the security protocols, see this page.

FREE-RESPONSE QUESTION FORMAT

Of all the changes to the format of AP® Exams this year, perhaps the most significant is the fact that only two exams, AP® English Language and AP® English Literature, will test students on questions with no major changes to timing and format. For those exams, students will complete Question 2: the rhetorical analysis essay and the prose fiction analysis essay, respectively.

On all other exams, the free-response questions have been modified in significant ways. For the AP® U.S. History Exam, the AP® European History Exam, and the AP® World History Exam, students will complete a document-based question (DBQ) with only five documents instead of the usual seven. In these subjects, students’ essay responses will be scored on a modified rubric.

In most of the remaining subjects, students will complete two free-response questions, one that is approximately 25 minutes in length and one that is approximately 15 minutes in length. Teachers and students will need to modify all their existing practice materials to a new format, new time scheme, and new rubric. Notably, most of the foreign language examinations will only include speaking tasks instead of the usual combination of speaking and writing in the free-response section.

For a detailed breakdown of each exam’s format as well as the specifics about AP® Art and AP® Capstone exams, see this page.

ACCESS FOR STUDENTS

For students who have limited access to the technology necessary to complete this year’s AP® Exams, the College Board is working to provide access. If you are in need of support to gain access to the Internet or to devices, please contact the College Board here.

AP® Teachers and Administrators: Join us throughout the day on Saturday, April 4th and Sunday, April 5th, for live events breaking down the exam changes and the impact it will have on your students. Click here to register and view the full schedule.

Parents and Students: Join us on Saturday, April 4th at 3 PM ET to learn more about the exam changes and how you can get ready for your test day! Register here.


John Moscatiello is the founder of Marco Learning. He has been a teacher, tutor, and author for AP® exams the past 17 years. Over the course of his career, John has taught more than 4,000 students, trained hundreds of teachers, written content for 13 test preparation books, and worked as an educational consultant in more than 20 countries around the world.