COVID and AP Testing


All 2020 AP exams had to be taken online for the first time ever, due to Covid-19.

AP exams are standardized tests that score students (usually juniors and seniors) on their knowledge within a specific advanced placement class. Usually, these exams take place in May, but due to Covid-19 and school cancellations, these tests were taken online from the students’ home. Because of the disadvantage of not being in the classroom, much of the curriculum taught in these classes were reduced to fit a shorter test within a tighter time span. This is a huge difference compared to how students had been preparing for their AP exams throughout the first three 9-weeks. For example, many exams required students to take a picture of their work and upload it to the exam site within just a few minutes! Here, we are asking students about their online AP exam experiences, how their academic performance was affected, and their personal opinions on how AP handled this unexpected turn. Three anonymous students, each from a different AP class, have been chosen to answer some questions after taking their 2020 AP exam. Student A took the AP Calculus AB exam, Student B took the AP Seminar exam, and Student C took the AP Government exam.


What is one thing you liked about the online exam and one thing you disliked? Explain why.

Student A: One thing I liked about the online exam was the switch to all extended response questions. From my experience, I usually perform better on the extended response questions. Also, the extended response meant I did not have to simplify my responses and worry about making mistakes during this process. One thing I did not like about the AP Calculus exam was the stress related to ensuring the picture of my work turned into College Board was legible, in good lighting, and submitted on time. The easiest way to respond to the questions was by writing out responses meaning I had to ensure that the pictures I took on my phone were correctly formatted, not-blurry, and submitted which added some stress to the test-taking process.

Student B: The AP Seminar exam changed drastically due to the pandemic. Rather than being scored on two essays, two presentations, and a written exam, students were only graded on one research report and one written argument. I liked this because it allowed me and others to focus on our essays and revise it to its highest potential. What I didn’t like about the change was the fact that the hard work throughout the year was not recognized. The exclusions did not show how much effort was put into projects, so I wish the final exam had included more graded material.

Student C: One thing I liked about the AP Government exam was the shortened time. The test typically takes several hours but this time it only took around 1. Something I disliked about the AP government exam was the stress of submitting properly and also blindly studying the class as a whole only to be tested on a few topics.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) how would you rate your AP exam experience and why?

Student A: I would rate a 9. The College Board website was very simple, and I feel that taking the exams in this manner was the best decision considering the times.

Student B: I would rate it an 8 because the site was very user-friendly, but it came with the added worry of technological issues.

Student C: I would rate a 7. While the exams were less time consuming and the site was user friendly, It was frustrating to prepare for the typical test format all year, only to have to adjust to a new format and method of submission at the end of the year.

Do you think that the changes to the exams affected your final score? Why?

Student A: No. While the exam was condensed, I believe that my abilities were properly assessed through the AP test.

Student B: Yes; because the “exam” was extremely condensed, I felt as if the graders could not accurately score the students.

Student C: I think my score for the AP government exam accurately represented my knowledge of the topic, however, I was in no way tested on all of the information I knew. Because of this, I’m sure many students’ scores could have been negatively affected.

How did you feel about the College Board reducing the exam requirements? (For example, the AP chemistry exam excluded Units 8 & 9)

Student A: I was indifferent to the reduction of the AP exam. On one hand, the ability to focus on the main topics allowed me to perform well. However, Mr. Miller had already taught us the unit that the College Board excluded, so I feel as if the reduction did not have a large impact on my performance.

Student B: The reduced exam did not allow the College Board graders to view student presentations, which are a major part of the class. Because there is substantial time and effort put into the creation of these presentations, I did not like the fact that they were not scored.

Student C: The reduced exam requirements had minimal effect on me. One slight benefit of the reduced requirements, however, was that it allowed me to hone in on a smaller amount of material and study more efficiently; I didn’t have to worry about teaching myself new material before the exam.

Did the online exam present any technological issues that affected your experience? If yes, explain how.

Student A: No, but I know of a student who has slow wifi at home, which almost prevented them from being able to submit their exam.

Student B: No.

Student C: No, however, I know many students who had various technological issues. These issues often resulted in requiring a retake.

Would you have rather taken a normal AP test, or do you prefer the shortened online version? Explain.

Student A: I prefer the shortened exam because I typically perform better on extended response questions compared to multiple choice. Therefore, since the calculus exam had only extended response questions, I was able to showcase the best of my ability.

Student B: I never experienced a real “exam” other than submitting two separate essays, so I am indifferent about whether I would have preferred to take the typical AP Seminar exam.

Student C: I prefer the longer exam simply because it tests a wider range of knowledge. It was more stressful studying a lot of content knowing I’d only be tested on a few topics. It was also frustrating to learn so much content only to be tested on so little.


It is interesting to see how the responses, consisting of math, writing, and social science perspectives, compare to one another. An important idea to keep in mind about this topic is that the testing experience is heavily influenced by the subject of the exam. Overall, whether you think the online AP exams were beneficial or harmful to the students, it will be interesting to see what the AP College Board will do next in 2021.