Comparing AP Test Options

Joseph Hoffman, Staff Reporter

Like most things during this unusual time, Advanced Placement testing is adapting to the times. This year, the College Board is offering new testing options. These testing options include the traditional full-length paper exam administered at school, an option where half of the subjects are paper and pencil and half are full-length online tests administered either at home or at school, or an all online option with online tests administered at school or at home. 

Most students will likely end up taking the traditional option: the paper and pencil test. Students will be most comfortable with this format, and it is historically how the test has been done in the past. These tests will be administered Monday, May 3 through Monday, May 17 depending on the class, and are the earliest AP tests students will be able to take. This format offers students the most familiarity considering a vast majority of their previous tests will have been paper and pencil. For those worried about COVID-19, however, an in-person exam might be more of a risk than they are willing to take.

This is where options two and three are beneficial. The second option will be offered Tuesday, May 18, through Friday, May 28, and allows students the ability to take half of the subjects as paper and pencil tests administered at school and the other half as online tests administered at school or taken at home. This option is largely for students who have conflicts or any other issue when it comes to the first paper and pencil test. It gives students who are worried about COVID-19 an option they might be more comfortable with. However, some students find this to be an unnecessarily complicated option for something so important. “Getting anything mixed up or forgetting anything at all could be really bad considering how important these tests are,” said Nathan Swanson, 11. The online option does indeed require much more responsibility and attentiveness from the students taking it. Students require authorization from the school to be able to test at home and are also responsible for downloading the digital exam application onto their testing computer. They must also complete all setup and readiness steps before the exam.

The third option this year is a fully digital option for those who cannot take any risks at all when it comes to COVID-19 or have had conflicts or issues with previous administrations of the test. This administration of the tests will take place Tuesday, June 1, through Friday, June 11, and require the same steps to be taken as in option two if it is to be taken at home. The College Board reassures that there will also be additional makeup dates after option three as well.

However, the second and third options were mostly set up for cases of extreme necessity, and students seem to view it that way as well. “As long as I can, I’m probably going to just stick to the paper test. I don’t have any health risks and there’s no need to complicate it too much,” Swanson said. And some students just prefer paper and pencil tests due to how much more experience they have with it with how new online testing is. “I don’t entirely trust myself or the computer not to mess something up when I’m taking online tests, so I like to stick to the way I know a lot better,” said Spencer Fellman, 11.

Overall, most students will end up taking the standard paper and pencil option for AP testing this year. But for those with serious health concerns or conflicts during the first paper and pencil administration of the tests, there are two other options including a blend of paper and pencil, online tests and a fully online option.