Lots of things have been affected by COVID-19: sports, theatre, band, orchestra, choir, and clubs. One of the biggest changes that affects everyone is online school. Academically, all seven class periods have been altered, and with them, standardized testing as well. STAAR tests have been canceled, ACTs and SATs have been postponed, and AP Exams have changed. Drastically.
What would usually be a two to three-hour test has been condensed to 45 minutes. At face value, that is an objectively good thing. However, less content means less room for error, it is digital, and it is likely to be more in-depth and detail-specific.
The biggest concern, in my opinion, is that the shortened test only gives test-takers a few opportunities to show what they know. On other AP tests, if someone messed up on an essay, they had multiple choices or speaking or short answers or any other section to demonstrate their prowess. With this structure, a lack of information in any category puts a student at risk of bombing the entire test. Two hours is not a great representation of what a student has learned throughout an entire year, but 45 minutes is even worse. Not every unit is a student’s strong suit, and if that unit ends up being represented then there goes the student’s college credit. One test already holds a lot of pressure, and these time constraints make it worse.
On top of that, the tests are digital. Digital tests may be for some people, but for the majority, this is new. Students have been taking paper-pencil tests since elementary school. Now, one can either type the free-responses or write it and take a picture to upload. Either way, the streamlining that comes with writing and mailing somewhere has been taken. It has been replaced with confusing upholds, toggling between paper, pencil and digital prompts, and the potential for blurry pictures or rampant mistypes. While some see this as “pioneering a new frontier,” I only see a recipe for disaster.
Finally, the College Board announced that tests are open-note tests. For me at least, my immediate reaction was a skip and a holler, but then I started thinking about what that actually implies. Now that the task of recalling information is less arduous, the information tested is going to be more specific. Rather than the usual broad questions, teachers are preparing students for mastering small details and specific skills. This does not apply to all subjects, but a good amount of them are definitely going to see a shift in content for the more specific. An ask that takes much more preparation than the normal AP Test would.
There are people who say the shorter, condensed version is the best option in current circumstances. And honestly, maybe they are correct, but the College Board is not giving our full refunds of the tests for students who were not t expecting this major change. There are people who are going to do worse by this method for all the reasons I mentioned, and those people are still being forced to take this expensive test. If the College Board was really trying to accommodate the new situation, they would offer refunds to those no longer interested in this form of testing.
Quarantine is having us adjust to all sorts of new things. We have to be flexible and understanding. But the College Board is still a corporation trying to make money, and the new, shortened exams are bringing even more pressure to a stressful test by leaving less room for error, pioneering a digital structure, and being detail-oriented.