Student responses to AP class and exam changes due to COVID-19

The laptop is open to the AP Human Geography videos that were made by College Board to help students study and review during this time

Photo courtesy of Grace Sato

The laptop is open to the AP Human Geography videos that were made by College Board to help students study and review during this time

COVID-19 has caused schools to have to undergo serious changes with their curriculum, and advanced placement (AP) classes are no different. AP classes are college level courses and feature an exam from the College Board at the end of the year. However, these exams have had to be altered because of school closures, and students taking the courses have had to adapt. 

Jesika Conner, freshman, is taking AP Human Geography and her teacher is Matt Kellogg. When asked what changes were made to her AP course and exam, Conner said, “Before distance learning we were spending time learning new vocab, and still had one more unit to go. Once school closed the focus shifted towards working on our writing skills due to lack of multiple choice. This is especially important for people like me that thrive on multiple choice questions, writing isn’t hard, but it’s not as easy as the multiple choice. With less content comes less room for error.” 

The exam is now open note and that has caused some students to react negatively, including Conner. “The open note format also takes away some of its validity as an actual test of our skill, but sadly there wasn’t really another option for college board,” Conner said.

AP Human Geography flashcards, notebook, and textbook that students use to study. Photo courtesy of Olivia Kaul

Ellen Horn, freshman, is also taking AP Human Geography from Kellogg. During a text interview, Horn explained, “In order to better prepare students for the AP exam, my class has shifted to a digital format in which each individual student can complete all the review activities assigned with the help of online sources posted by the teacher.” 

When asked how she’s been preparing for the newly formatted exam, Horn wrote, “Preparing for the exam, for me, has been a lot of review videos posted by teachers and practice questions. I’ve put a lot of effort into preparing for this exam and even though I’m unable to learn with my teacher and classmates in person, I’m still learning a lot and I feel prepared!”

Grace Sato, freshman, is also taking AP Human Geography, but Sato’s teacher is Tyson. Brown. “The class is more review based since some of the units have been taken off the test, which is good. We get more time to practice and study and go over all our old materials instead of having to learn new stuff which is nice,” Sato said. 

When asked about her opinion on the changes to the exam, Sato explained, “Taking away the multiple choice part kinda sucks. One of my weaknesses is articulating my thoughts which makes the free response section harder for me. Without the parts I’m strong at, I worry about getting a good score. Aside from that, the open note part gives me some hope because I’ll have access to examples which are important in free response questions. I worry about having less time because time management is also a weakness.”

Julia Hernandez, sophomore, is taking AP Statistics. “We’ve started doing weekly worksheets to review each unit, so that we can remember things from the first few units we might not otherwise know, and also solidify the things that are important to know for the exam,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez also mentioned how she felt about the format changing. “Instead of being half multiple choice and half free response now it’s just two free response questions and the exam is only 45 minutes. I’m actually really happy about this because I prefer the free response questions, and I’d rather it be that way if I’m doing it from home.”

Lastly, Haydn Maust, senior, is taking AP Economics, AP Chemistry, AP Psychology, AP Spanish, and AP English. “Most teachers have been making use of the Collegeboard official AP Classroom website to offer practice for the test, as well as the Advanced Placement official review videos on Youtube. Beyond that, the classes tend to be similar to how they were before,” Maust said. 

When asked how his exams have changed and his opinion on the matter, Maust said, “The exams are now either one or two questions, although some questions have up to 12 parts for a total of 50 minutes of testing. One consequence of this is that it’s virtually impossible to test all skills that a student learned in the course, so there is substantial luck related to getting questions that you’re more familiar with. My friend and I both took the AP Chem exam, but he got completely different questions and had a harder time answering as a result.”

The newly formatted exams may pose challenges for some students, but they can also be beneficial to others. While this year’s exams are by no means perfect, College Board has allowed students the chance to still earn the credit they’ve been preparing for since the start of the year.