2021 AP Testing remains a challenge for many Webbies

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Yvette Shu (‘23)

With remote learning persisting and affecting the way students learn, the 2021 AP exams will be very different for those who plan on taking them.

With the coronavirus outbreak plaguing the entire school year, high school students around the nation have faced many difficulties with remote learning, as converting lessons virtually is a first for many. Furthermore, classes at Webb in the 2021-2022 school year have been shortened to only 45 minutes, and the full curriculum has been modified in order to accommodate such short periods. 

Fortunately, Webb faculty develops many of its courses, so the majority of classes—regular, honors, and advanced studieshave remained unaffected, as long as students study, do their homework, and actively participate in class. However, AP classes, which abide by the content and methods prescribed nationally by College Board, are in greater jeopardy, as the class culminates in an important end-of-the-year exam covering all material and concepts taught in the class. 

One major change occurring in this year’s AP exams is that most tests will be administered at-home, using whatever technological device the student has available. Unlike the 2020 AP exams, however, where the test was shortened to only 45 minutes long, College Board announced that this year’s exam will be full-length—two to three hours long—covering all content learned throughout the school year.  

“Unfortunately, like last year, the College Board is only offering the test administrations during a specific time for each exam,” said Michael Hoe, Director of Studies. This year, it is even more challenging because the exams will be full-length exams rather than the 45-minute exams they gave last year. 

Another challenge this year’s AP exams present is that tests are administered at synchronous set times, meaning students who live abroad will have to take it late at night or very early in the morning. 

“We cannot do anything about the times that the College Board is administering the exams,” Mr. Hoe said. “We wrote to them last year and were told that there were no plans to offer multiple times to accommodate students who lived abroad.” 

The pandemic has completely altered the ways many teachers deliver instruction and the way many students learn. This past year, students have been plunged in a nontraditional learning environment, so taking an exam designed for a regular school year will certainly be very tough. In addition to online learning, due to the shorter class times, students are having to review and learn a lot of the material on their own. 

With these difficulties, Webb has made accommodations in order to ease this stress on students. Just like last year, students can opt out of testing and current juniors can delay taking the exam until 2022. 

“In order to alleviate the pressure of AP exams, we decided to make it optional again, which does not change the AP designation on transcripts,” Mr. Hoe said. “We have also helped to facilitate finding local testing centers for students who might have one in their vicinities so they can test during a more reasonable time.” 

Those who will be taking the AP exams this year feel the pressure, especially when they had to get through class content in a rushed manner in order to adjust to the 45-minute window. Additionally, with the exams itself being digital, some students will inevitably face technical issues and glitches which can make the already stressful situation more taxing. 

“I will be taking the AP Chemistry exam this year,” Haley Colorado (‘22) said. “I think it will be much more challenging because classes are now 45 minutes long instead of 80 minutes. So, in class, we are speeding through a lot of the material or else we will not get to all of the topics covered in the exam.” 

“I thought about AP exams a lot this year, but in the end, I decided to take the exam for all of my AP classes, just in case they are helpful for college next year,” Sneha Jindal (‘21) said. “Compared to last year, I am definitely a little more nervous for the exams because learning has been more difficult online, and the exams are full length this year and not shortened. But I think that because the exams are later this year, I will have more time to prepare so hopefully it will go well. 

Others, in particular seniors who have already completed the college admissions process, do not think the stress of exams is worth further marring what is supposed to be the pinnacle of their senior year. So, many also decided to opt out of AP exams, saving themselves plenty of worry. 

This year I am not taking my AP Calculus exam because I don’t think that I am prepared, and since this is an important step in math, I would rather take it again in college when I can be in-person, Julia Patronite (‘21) said. Staying at home has made learning very difficult for me, especially for my science and math classes, and I just don’t feel as confident. Also, as a senior who has already got into good schools, I don’t see a point in wasting the end of my senior year that was already taken from me, by studying for a test that I know I am not going to pass. 

With the pandemic completely altering instruction, this year’s AP exams are just another casualty. In fact, many students in the United States have started and encouraged people to sign their petitions demanding that College Board revise the logistics of AP exams, given all the challenges brought by the pandemic this year with remote learning. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the students starting these petitions, we cannot deny the fact that this year’s AP testing could be the most challenging attempt yet.