Behind the scenes of AP testing


Nicole Tian

A stack of AP prep books. While students across all grades are busy reviewing for APs and other end-of-the-year cumulative exams, Director of Standardized Testing and Scheduling Troy Thiele works behind the scenes to coordinate and coordinate testing logistics.

by Nicole Tian and Irene Yuan

During the first two weeks of May, the doors of the auxiliary gym and Nichols are lined with backpacks starting from 8 a.m. and stretching long into the afternoon. However, members of scheduling begin planning for the APs long before the atmosphere surrounding them sets in.

Scheduling for these exams begins at the start of the school year, once the number of students taking each exam is determined. Students who self-studied were required to individually contact Director of Standardized Testing and Scheduling Troy Thiele by Nov 15, though that deadline will be shifted ahead to the end of September next year. Students already registered for the corresponding AP course are included in the final roster, and Thiele then places a bulk order from the CollegeBoard. Next year, teachers and students will additionally be employing the AP Classroom system to access questions from past APs and register information for each upcoming exam.

Since the APs are assessments administered by the CollegeBoard, a national academic organization, all students and proctors must follow strict protocols in the testing room, starting from the seating chart. Students are randomly assigned a certain number beforehand and arranged in desks at the testing centers from least to greatest. Prior to the test, all materials are placed in their correct position, including the specific AP exam, a personalized answer sheet and each individual’s student pack, a booklet with a student’s school information and AP number.

Some major challenges during this process are making sure that the student packs are filed correctly and subsequent preparation.

“Once they’re done with that particular test, I have to grab their student pack from them and refile it with another answer sheet for their next test,” Thiele said. “The biggest challenge is when there are multiple tests going on at the same time [and] making sure that both tests are running smoothly in the different locations.”

In order to maintain a fair environment, students are only allowed to bring in stationery and a timer with a muted alarm, and any suspicious devices may result in the cancellation of an AP score. Pencil pouches and even water bottles are not allowed to be brought in, and students must be accompanied to use the restroom.

Proctors are arranged based on the schedule of the teachers as well as their relation to the exam. They cannot have taught a course in the subject area of the current test, and there is a lead proctor from Harker and a hired professional proctor followed by various other teachers. Since one AP can take up to 4 hours, each proctor is usually not assigned to more than two exams. They may use their cell phones during their shift to communicate with Thiele about any possible issues that arise. Besides keeping track of technicalities, the teachers also keep track of time, give instructions, lead the students to the Athletics center during breaks in the middle of the exam and answer questions that are unrelated to the content of the AP.

Additionally, it is the goal of the proctors to make sure that students can take their assessment in a welcoming environment.

“It’s important for proctors to stay positive, because that can have an impact on how the kids are feeling when they’re taking the tests,” Spanish teacher and AP proctor Abel Olivas said. “They’re already stressed enough going into it, so you just want to create an environment that’s comfortable for them and hold them to the standards.”