Technical Exam Difficulties Plague AP Students

Last year, when students signed up for the AP courses they are currently taking, they could not have predicted that the exams would look so radically different than they had in years past. Instead of being three hours long, they were a mere forty-five minutes, and instead of taking place at Morris Hills, they took place anywhere a student could find relative peace and a decent wireless connection. 

These changes are all due to the coronavirus crisis and subsequent shutdown of schools. In order to still give students the chance to earn college credit, the College Board adapted its strict exams to be accessible to students everywhere. Unfortunately, accessibility was difficult to achieve. 

Students around the world have a variety of different circumstances with which to contend. Some have to work, some are responsible for family members, and others simply do not have the proper test-taking conditions or Internet connection. What was supposed to level the playing ground has, in fact, divided students by privilege. 

Other issues with the exams arose randomly. Technical problems, such as being unable to reach the testing site, unable to submit work, or getting kicked out of the site, have appeared for many students.

On the first day of testing, the College Board website informed Zoe Tweedie, a Morris Hills junior, that her response on the AP U.S Government and Politics exam was not accepted. “I was disappointed but not surprised,” she said of the incident. With so many students taking the exam at once, “not having things go wrong seemed unlikely.” Tweedie, like many of her fellow AP test-takers, will now have to take the makeup exams in early June. 

In response to issues with submission during the first week of testing, the College Board announced that for the second week students could email their responses if the website would not accept them. Junior Caroline Lissy, who also had difficulties submitting her answers in the first week, praised the new rule as “a very good idea” that “took a lot of stress off.”

Overall, however, she believes that the organization could have improved its treatment of the situation. “I feel like the College Board did not take some things into consideration,” Lissy explained. “This way of testing creates an unfair advantage for some.”

Like her classmate, Zoe Tweedie saw inequalities in the online testing plan. “In my opinion, they either (1) should have canceled exams and refunded us or (2) pushed them back further.”

Students around the country seem to agree. Since exams began two weeks ago, a group of high schoolers has filed a class action lawsuit against the College Board for “breach of contract, gross negligence, misrepresentations and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act,” according to Forbes Magazine. The group is suing for over $500 million in monetary relief as well as the scoring of the answers they were unable to submit. 

The request for monetary relief serves as a practical and symbolic move. Since before the crisis, the organization has been criticized for its steep exam prices and hefty cancellation fees. This year, the College Board waived all cancellation fees but offered no other refund to students who no longer wished to take the test. In a time when millions are losing jobs and the economy is struggling, and when the $94 exam cost may be more valuable to a family than ever, the organization’s refusal to refund was controversial. The class action lawsuit may be a culmination of years of anger and distrust towards the College Board, as well as a reaction to the current situation. 

Students and teachers alike will be waiting anxiously to receive the results of the 2020 tests. This year, the scores might reveal more than simply knowledge or skill; they may divide students around the world by socioeconomic status, access to a strong education, and even the luxury of having a quiet place to work.