A sense of normalcy? The return of in-person AP exams

Claremont High School has announced that the AP Exams this May are set to take place in-person despite students having taken their AP courses online as a result of the pandemic. CHS staff have analyzed the potential benefits and drawbacks of the decision and have determined that this was the best choice for students. Although there is a potential risk for students to receive and transmit COVID at an in-person testing center, CHS staff felt that the question of equity surrounding adequate technology for at home exams was more pertinent, believing that having the exam fully in-person would create the best atmosphere for all AP students at CHS.

“We decided the most equitable thing for everybody would be to do in-person,” CHS Assistant Principal Andrea Deligio said. “On a digital exam, you can’t use an iPad. So that could be a huge problem, or because we do have some kids whose iPad is their only technology device at home. Last year, they allowed kids to use cell phones. They’re not allowing that this year. The only thing that the College Board would allow an iPad on is an 18 minute portion of a World Language exam.”

The latter part refers to the Digital Auto Capture app that will be used as a recording method for the speaking portions of the AP language exams, which the College Board has deemed secure, fast, and simple. Deligio also mentioned that in order to effectively do the AP exams from home, the College Board has determined that students needed to meet specific technology requirements or use school-managed Chromebooks, an asset that CUSD does not have in large numbers. There is also the fact that students are not allowed to return to previous questions on an exam for revision or skipping in the digital platform. This can make taking the AP exams more difficult and stressful, contributing to the lens of equity which CHS staff made the decision from.

In spite of the entirety of the school year being carried out entirely online, some students such as CHS junior Shahin Amani feel that CHS made the right decision in making the AP exams fully in-person, especially considering that many would consider it fair to do it this way.

“I’m fairly happy because I’d prefer taking the exam in-person over online,” Amani said. “Many of my friends took AP Biology last year online and it felt like it was a rushed exam. We got close to an hour to do two very long problems and I feel like if we do it in-person at CHS, it will be a lot better. Even though we have done research and studied entirely online throughout the year, I feel like doing it in person would be better. That’s how it has been in the previous years. Doing it in person will allow us to show our true skills in the subject.”

This year, the test itself will not be any different than it was in 2019 or earlier years. This is in stark contrast with the 2020 exam which was heavily modified due to the school closures and country-wide lockdown in months before the exam. Now, after a year of online learning, the College Board has found no need to make any changes to the exams. What will change is the way the in-person exam will be carried out.

“If you have an exam that is very popular, maybe you have 80 to a hundred kids who are going to take that,” Deligio said. “We would normally schedule that for a large venue, like one of the gyms or Taylor Hall. This year, we’re still going to use those venues, but we’re not going to put all 80 to a hundred kids in there. We’ll have a significantly fewer number of kids in each testing room.”

The new 3-foot guideline from the CDC will not be used for AP exams, as it is deemed appropriate only for elementary schools. The College Board has required a minimum of 5 feet, so test proctors and CHS staff will enforce these guidelines to add additional space and ensure the safety of students for the exams. These guidelines give confidence in students like Amani, who trust CHS staff will handle the AP exams without any issues.

“I am optimistic that they will do well because we are currently going back in person on Monday,” Amani said. “And I feel like in this next month, CHS is going to grow and fight off all the problems they’re going to have for the AP exam.”

For students who are in the CORE/CHAMP programs or simply do not feel comfortable or ready to return to the in-person setting for the exams, Deligio said that she hopes that they make an exception for this year. Regardless of the decision, students who are hesitant about coming back to school can work with counselors and the school on a situational basis.

Deligio remains optimistic and grateful for AP teachers and students despite the struggles they may have faced this year.

“I really appreciate all the work the kids have done,” Deligio said. “I really appreciate all the work our AP teachers have done. Both of those groups of folks have worked so hard on these tests, so hard to prepare kids. Kids have worked hard to be prepared. I’m really proud of everybody for what they’ve been able to accomplish in the school year.”