AP Exam Changes Sign

Of all the changes we’ve seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one stands out. Schools have moved to distance-learning models. SAT exams have been canceled. ACT exams have been canceled. But the AP exams? Those are still happening in May—with some very significant changes. Here’s what you need to know.

1. AP exams will be administered at home.

This is a big deal. If you’re taking AP exams this spring, you’ll be doing it from the comfort of your home. Traditional face-to-face exams will not take place. 

2. The exams will be shorter and feature a common format.

For this year only, the exams will be 50 minutes total (including submission time). They will consist of free-response questions only; you won’t get multiple-choice answers, so you won’t be able to guess—you’ll just have the questions and the knowledge in your brain to work with. Watch our video, Conquering FRQs on the 2020 AP Exams, for expert tips on fine-tuning your strategy.

3. The exams will only cover what you’ve studied so far.

Like many students, you may have ended your in-school studies in March. The folks at the College Board know this, and in the interest of fairness, the exams will include only the topics and skills that you’re likely to have covered by early March.

4. You’ll have options for how you take your AP exams.  

You’ll be able to take AP exams on any device you have access to—a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. You’ll also have the option to take a photo of your handwritten work. If you haven't already, be sure to take a demo exam so you familiarize yourself with the interface as well as the process for submitting your work. Also check out our video, How to Take (and Submit) Your 2020 AP Exams.

5. The timing for these exams is unusual.

The AP exams are being administered May 11–26, with makeup dates the first week of June. College Board strongly advises students to take their AP exams during the May dates so as to ensure an opportunity to retake the exam should any technical difficulties arise. That is fairly typical. What's not typical is the timing of each exam, which will be given simultaneously across the world—meaning that if you're in Hawaii, you may have exams starting at 6:00 a.m.; if you're in India, you may have exams starting at 1:30 a.m. College Board also asks that students launch the exam 30 minutes prior so they can get logged in and ready to test. 

6. Colleges are poised to accept AP exams for credit.

Questions about college credit may be foremost on your mind, since the ability to earn college credit—and save precious tuition dollars—is a major reason why students take AP exams in the first place. Rest assured, the folks at the College Board have said that colleges support this solution and “are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn.” Check out our video, Will Colleges Accept At-Home AP Scores? (Spoiler alert: Yes!)

7. The College Board is taking steps to ensure test security.

You may be wondering about the integrity of the exams, given that students will be taking them from home. Here is what we know so far: 

  • First, the College Board is using a range of digital security tools, including plagiarism detection software, to safeguard the integrity of the exams. 
  • Second, keep in mind that scoring at-home work for AP exams isn’t new. For years, the AP program has done that as part of the AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone courses. It is of course very new to do this for all AP exams, but we’re in uncharted territory right now. We are heartened that the College Board is working hard to ensure that you can still achieve your higher education goals. 
  • Third, the fact that the tests are going to be free-response also makes it harder to cheat—it’s not like you can text your friends a series of answers. 
  • Finally, we believe that the College Board will come up with a system to ensure that all students are judged based on their own work. College Board has also said that the consequences for cheating will be severe.

8. You will be able to prep for these—and succeed.

It may feel overwhelming to have to prep for an exam that you’re only just learning about. Please take heart. For starters, you’ve been learning and preparing all year . Have faith in your brain. Second, the College Board is providing a variety of free AP review classes and resources for this year’s unique test—as are we! We have daily AP subject livestreams right up until the exams start. And of course, we’ll continue to post updates here and on our YouTube channel. Watch our latest video about these changes:

As always, we’ll keep you fully updated as new test intel becomes available. You’ve got this, and we are cheering you on.