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 45 minutes in duration. 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.

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. For students without computers or internet access, the College Board is working to ensure that you’ll have the tools and connectivity you’ll need to review AP content and take your AP exams.

5. You’ll have options for when you take your AP exams.

For each AP subject, there will be two different testing dates. If you’re ready to take your exams sooner, you can choose an earlier date that’ll enable you to take your test when the material is still fresh. If you need more time to study, you can choose a later date. 

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.”

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 designing and planning to administer the questions in ways that prevent cheating. They’re also 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. We don't yet know what this will look like, but there may be a remote proctor or some other method to ensure that every examinee is the same person as that exam’s registrant.

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. And of course, we’ll continue to post updates here and on our YouTube channel. Watch our latest video about these changes:

The College Board will release more information—including the full exam schedule and info about the specific free-response question types—by April 3rd. As always, we’ll keep you fully updated as new test intel becomes available. You’ve got this, and we are cheering you on.