Staff, students generally support online AP exams from home

Sophia Krugler, Managing Editor

Many Palo Alto High School students and staff members say they are understanding of The College Board’s decision to offer online Advanced Placement exams due to COVID-19.

According to an update published on The College Board’s website Friday, AP tests, which usually last three to four hours depending on the subject, will last 45 minutes and will consist of only free-response questions. The College Board also says it will release another update on April 3 which will include the full exam schedule, specific free-response question types, and additional testing details. 

“It’s crazy how seven to eight months of learning will all boil down to 45 minutes,” junior Ellie Wong stated in a text message to The Paly Voice. 

Wong also says she is concerned that the test will cater to students who perform better on free-response questions and put those who prefer multiple-choice questions at a disadvantage. 

The College Board said it will use digital security tools such as plagiarism detection software to prevent cheating. However, Wong says she is still concerned about test security.

“With AP tests onsite it’s a super tight security testing zone,” Wong stated in a text message to the Voice. “It seems like they won’t be able to control cheating. However, I understand why The College Board has to do this.”

Although some students have voiced concerns, junior Hannah Zhou says she supports The College Board’s decision.

“I’m glad that they’re still offering the test because it would be a shame if all of the hard work we put in was just wasted,” Zhou stated in a text message to the Voice. “But I don’t know how I feel about the tests only being 45 minutes because it might not be representative of everything we’ve learned.”

According to The College Board, the tests will only include skills and topics that most classes have already covered by early March to account for the class time students are missing due to school closures. 

“They have [The College Board has] also identified that Units 8 and 9 from the course framework will not be in the exam,” Jack Bungarden, who teaches AP U.S. History, stated in an email to the Voice. “This certainly makes whatever instruction and preparation we do over the next weeks a bit more focused.”

AP Environmental Science teacher Nicole Loomis says she expects Paly students to perform well on the exam despite the changes. 

“Paly students traditionally do very well on the APES [AP Environmental Science] exam, compared to national averages,” Loomis stated in an email to the Voice. “I do not expect this year to be any different, provided students stay engaged, participate in learning the remaining content, and adequately review and practice for the exam.”

The AP Seminar exam is the only test that has been canceled. Instead of an exam, students will submit a digital portfolio which will include an Individual Research Report and an Individual Written Argument. Junior Rein Vaska, who is taking AP Seminar, says he understands the decision to cancel the exam. 

“The final AP score of the course is based on research assignments that are turned in throughout the year, meaning that a score can still be given without a physical final exam,” Vaska stated in a text message to the Voice.  

However, the digital portfolio excludes some projects that Paly students have already completed, according to Vaska. 

“We just finished our Team Multimedia Presentations, which we spent a lot of time on, and we will not be able to turn [them] in as The College Board is not accepting [them],” Vaska stated in a text message to the Voice.