AP students will take exams at home with electronic devices — with open book or notes that could test security

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Classroom. Credit: Pixabay.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida high school students in Advanced Placement classes will take the exams in their homes using electronic devices, with testing opening in May.

The test administrator, the nonprofit College Board, announced last week that “students will be able to take exams on any device they have access to” including computers, tablets, or smartphones.

AP students will be allowed to use open book or open notes when testing — security issues that some families might be concerned about following the recent college admissions scandal.

The College Board stated in a press release:

“Like many college-level exams, this year’s AP Exams will be open book/open note. The exam format and questions are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online. However, students taking the exams may not consult with any other individuals during the testing period. We’ll take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of each exam administration, as we do every year.”

The released continued: “We’re confident that the vast majority of AP students will follow the rules for taking the exams. For the small number of students who may try to gain an unfair advantage, we have a comprehensive and strict set of protocols in place to prevent and detect cheating. While some of these practices are confidential to maximize their effectiveness, students and education professionals can learn more about our security measures.”

The College Board also explained the open book/open notes practice, saying that “Open book/open note exams are not easy. Answering AP Exam questions takes more than copying information from notes. Finding facts, formulas, or other information in your notes is only one step to answering an exam question—you have to apply the information in order to complete the task.”

In a coronavirus update, the College Board said “the exams will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March.”

The update also said: “We know that some students have lost more class time than others, and we want to be fair to all students.”

At issue is whether colleges and universities will accept college credits from the AP exams given the circumstances of the at-home testing environment.

The College Board offers at least three dozen AP exams ranging from U.S. History to chemistry, macroeconomics and Spanish language and culture.

High school students across the country take the AP course as well as the exams. Students need at least a score of 3, 4 and 5 to pass. Students who get passing scores can get college credits, which saves on tuition.

That report shows that fifty-six percent of Florida’s 2019 graduating class took an AP exam during high school.

However, that data is only one component of the AP results. The Florida Phoenix found in February that nearly half the 2019 Florida graduates who took AP exams across all subjects failed, College Board data show. That means kids lose out on college credits and savings on tuition.

Exams will be given from May 11 -22, with makeup tests offered in June, according to the College Board.

The organization surveyed 18,000 students who said they still want to take the exam to get college credit. That benefits the College Board as well. While the College Board is a nonprofit, it does make money. The millions of AP exams have costs, though some students in financial need can get reduced fees.

Trevor Packer, vice president of AP & Instruction, said in a press release:

“We surveyed thousands of students from all over the country, and they overwhelmingly want to test. We want to give every student the chance to earn the college credit they’ve worked toward throughout the year. That’s why we quickly set up a process that’s simple, secure, and accessible.”

The organization began offering free AP review courses several weeks ago being taught by AP teachers from across the country.

For students who don’t have the proper mobile devices or tools to take online exams, the College Board is working with partners to provide resources.

The full schedule for AP exams can be found here.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.