Photo courtesy of @collegeboard on Instagram
It is the busiest time of year. Juniors are trying to prepare for the SATs, seniors are preparing for graduation and sophomores and freshmen are flooded with schoolwork. But recently, the biggest task for WCHS students to complete are the AP exams with their unusually spaced out schedule.
“The AP exams are always one of the most studious times of year,” Isaac Wathieu, a junior at WCHS, said. “I think it’s very difficult to study for the exams because unlike other unit tests, the exam is an entire course crammed into one test.”
Along with the difficulty of actually studying for the exams, a lot of students are also struggling with the amount of changes to the schedule that have been made. Most of the exams have two dates for exams to be taken and the actual dates have been rapidly-changing and vary depending on the class.
“Normally, during a traditional, non-COVID year there is one date and time for each AP class, but this year there’s two,” Nathan La, another WCHS junior that’s been having to study extremely hard for the exams, said. “I don’t know if I like it because it makes everything more complicated and confusing.”
Even though the pandemic has affected how, when and where the exams are taken, it seemed to not affect how many students took the exams last year. According to College Board statistics, “despite the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.21 million students in the class of 2020 took 4.1 million exams, a slight decrease from the class of 2019, where 1.24 million students took 4.26 million exams.” Based on these statistics, this year’s exams should not see any decrease.
“The only thing that I liked that came out of the pandemic exam-wise was the fact that I can take them online. I always like working with a computer, and a lot of the time by the end of the exam, I’m mentally and physically drained,” Wathieu said.
While the exams have transitioned to the online variants, the actual format of the tests have also changed. Normally, the exams consist of a DBQ (Document Based Questions) or an SAQ (Short Answer Questions) with a combination of multiple-choice questions. However, now with the new format, some of the exams are making their exam only multiple-choice questions. Another change that The College Board implemented this year, unlike other years, is that you cannot go back to previous questions after hitting “next” when taking the test. This has worried some students and caused more frustration.
“I don’t love the idea that you can’t go back on questions,” La said. “I’m the type of person during tests that always goes back to previous questions, so the no going back rule might be a challenge for me.”
The College Board has also made changes with their own website and the testing app so that it is more difficult to cheat on the exam by locking the test so that the student can’t switch tabs and they made it easier to submit the actual work.
“I will say, I do appreciate the amount of time our teachers have been helping us study for the exam,” Wathieu said. “Normally we do get some class time to prepare for the exam, but I feel like this year our teachers have been giving us more tools and time to study which I’m so happy about.”
Some teachers and classes have added an extra week or two focussed on studying for the exam in order for students to get more prep time for their tests. Some teachers are even making themselves available after school hours in order for students to join a Zoom and go over questions and topics they may be confused about.
“One of the other complex things that you have to do unlike last year is to make sure that you have to download the digital AP Exam App,” La said. “If I have trouble with the app on the day, that might be a slight issue.”
The College Board has consistently been trying to update and upgrade their software and services in order to provide a stress-free experience for students during their exams. In order to do so they have implemented a four-step process for each student to do before the exam.
First, they have to download and log into the digital AP Exam App like mentioned before. Once logged in, the student should do some practice questions in the app. It is also recommended that one through three days before the exam day, the student should complete the exam setup. Finally, it’s suggested that the student signs into the testing app 30 minutes prior to the exam.
“Even though the process is very complicated, I’m just happy that The College Board was able to implement a system so that we can take the exam in the midst of the pandemic,” Wathieu said. Now the next step is to get fives on all the exams!”