Technical difficulties during this year’s AP exams caused problems for students


Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Charlotte Guy

Does your grandfather pick up quartz and valuable onyx jewels? If he does, you must be all too familiar with the struggles of taking some of the most unprecedented AP tests to date. Whether they couldn’t remember how to spell “receive” or the answers they poured their heart and soul into wouldn’t submit, most students encountered some degree of annoyance when taking this year’s exams.

As we know all too well, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut Wilson’s doors for the rest of the school year, forcing AP students to take their college credit exams at home. A year of learning crammed into forty five-minute exams coupled with having 2.9 million students take 4.9 million tests was bound to result in some technical and human glitches leaving consequences for students.

For many, the most serious problem was an inability to submit answers at the completion of the exam, due to technical overload and vague instructions. This means that afflicted students will have to take a make-up exam in the beginning of June, if their test was before May 18th. 

One such student is junior Finian Saccocio. “I took the English, APUSH, and AB Calc exams, and the only one that went poorly was the math,” said Saccocio. While his friends were rejoicing over being done, he was signing up to take his AB Calculus exam for the second time this year.

Despite efforts to help students prepare for a new format with teachers’ counseling and a demo exam provided by the College Board, it was difficult to truly replicate what the actual test would be like. “The first mistake College Board made was making the mock exams a different set up than the actual exams,” said Saccocio. “Going into the exam I was expecting to click a specific set of buttons to turn in my work and it only added to the confusion when I was shown a totally different layout and it wasn’t working properly.” 

Sophomore Isabelle Pala got a little luckier with her exam. Pala wasn’t able to submit her AP World History document-based question but unlike Saccocio, she had an alternative. “They had an option for you to email your response to this unique address and that’s fine as long as you do it within ten minutes,” said Pala. However, not everyone  benefited from this solution. The solution was created on May 18th in response to students who weren’t able to submit from early exams. So those who took their tests before this new alternative was instituted, like Saccocio, are now finding themselves preparing for the make-up tests in June.

Unlike most, Senior Conor McHugh actually benefited from the technical glitches. “I have extra break time but for some reason I got extra time on the actual test instead,” he said. 

Another positive to online testing was it made some tests significantly easier. It was impossible for College Board to fit a year’s worth of material into such a short testing period so students had to prepare for significantly less material. “Writing a DBQ in forty five minutes for AP world was definitely difficult, but a lot less hard than what I had prepared for. Also, the AP psychology exam was super easy especially with access to notes and online resources,” said sophomore Emily Shaw.

However, some students see these circumstances as demoralizing. Despite a year of hard work and studying it was all condensed and the value of high scores may be reduced. This causes another lingering worry about how colleges will judge AP scores with this year’s system.  “I only took two APs but I feel bad for juniors and seniors who took more because I know there is a lot of uncertainty around how these scores will be judged by colleges,” said Shaw.

But despite any glitches you may have encountered, know that there is some solace in the situation—the College Board is being held accountable with a 500 million dollar lawsuit for glitching student’s exams.