There are few feelings more disgusting than the shamelessness of your nervous system as soon as the AP exam proctor says, “You have 50 minutes to complete the first part of the exam. Your time starts now.” You scour the pages of the booklet in front of you for something to clutch into, a shred of hope that the next question will make more sense than the last. After four years of high school, I thought standardised testing couldn’t get much worse than that.
College Board, ever the fake indie hipster that thinks it’s making a difference by paving forward with a new standard for education, proved me wrong. This year, amidst the various panics and tragedies of the Covid-19 epidemic, College Board decided that it was going to take a new approach, rolling out a brand new format of online testing. Free response questions, open notes, 45 minutes. Sounds like a better, stress-free alternative, no?
No indeed. It turns out that 1. having open notes and 2. being at home on the computer (?) indicate to the College Board that the best ways to prevent cheating include a) digging out the most obscure parts of curriculum they could find and b) forcing students to type some funky statement about a grandpa with onyx jewels and pans into a box at the login screen. It also somehow indicated that the allotted time of 25 minutes, usually taken to complete a 6-part problem, could suddenly be used to complete a 12-part problem. Another question fifteen minutes long contained an 8-part problem instead of a 4-part.
Timing was a massive issue for thousands of people, myself included. Without even a second to check answers, let alone go back to parts of a problem I didn’t understand in the beginning, I barely managed to submit my work on time. Within the five minutes allotted to turning answers in, some glitches in the system kept even students who had uploaded their work immediately from submitting before time ran out. For us unfortunate kids who took tests in the first week, we weren’t given the chance to email our answers to the Board — they just told us to retake in June.
(I have to retake my AP Chemistry exam for another reason — though my answers got in on time, my image format was not accepted, another oversight on the part of the College Board, who should have foreseen that this format, used in some iPhones to save storage, would be pretty common.)
Now, the College Board is being sued by students who were unable to submit their work for scoring. What can I say? I’ve never been a fan of the company, and the thought of my upcoming retake makes angry steam pour out of my ears. Zero out of ten for the AP exams.