Most upper school AP exams to be taken digitally, seven on-campus exams


Ariana Goetting

Ariana Goetting (9) works at her desk during remote learning. Upper school students will be taking most of their AP exams from home through a computer.

by Lucy Ge, Winged Post News Editor

Seven Advanced Placement (AP) exams will be administered on-site at the upper school, while students will take all other AP exams for this year digitally at home, according to an email sent out on Feb. 25 by Director of Standardized Testing and Scheduling Troy Thiele.

Unlike last year, the 2021 digital exams will be full-length and will not allow students to go back and forth between questions. While students were able to take last year’s exams on any digital device, students will only be able to use this year’s digital testing platform on laptop and desktop computers. 

Several upper school AP exam dates are later than anticipated, with many digital exams in late May and early June, providing students with more time to prepare for the exams. Upper school physics teacher Dr. Mark Brada, who teaches AP Physics 2, has adjusted his lesson plans in response to the AP Physics 2 exam being pushed back to June 10. 

“We’re most of the way through the material already, as you would imagine, but we’re backing off a little bit in terms of what we’re doing in class,” he said. “I plan on having most of the month of May to spend time reviewing with my students.”

To provide more testing flexibility, the College Board is offering three different testing dates for each subject and both in-person and digital options for many exams. According to Thiele’s email, the upper school opting for mostly digital exams provides students with “a test calendar that is the most likely to remain unchanged.”

Due to the College Board requiring in-person administration for certain exams, AP Chinese, French, Japanese, Music Theory, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature and Latin exams, which will also be full-length, are set to be administered on campus in May. Students in these seven AP classes are not required to take the in-person exams. 

Sasvath Ramachandran (11) plans to take the in-person AP French exam, which will be administered in its traditional format with reading, listening, writing and speaking components. 

“I actually feel pretty good because the in-person exam is more complete,” he said. “That’s helpful, because no one part is then super important, and you have more room for error on the day of the exam.” 

The upper school will take similar precautions for in-person exams as previous standardized testing exams administered on campus during the pandemic, including a mask requirement for both students and proctors, appropriate ventilation and a maximum of 25 students in testing venues.

Although Rupert Chen (10) feels relieved that three out of four of his AP exams will be digital and “less hassle” than taking them all in-person, he also recognizes the caveat of not being able to review his answers on the exams.

“It isn’t my favorite type of testing, because I do like to go back and check over it and maybe even change some of the answers,” he said. 

For students set to take digital exams, Thiele explained in his email that the upper school is unable to accommodate student requests for an in-person option “due to various logistical constraints related to our current health situation and the large size of our AP® program.”

In the case that an exam testing time conflicts with a graduation activity, seniors can reach out to Thiele to move the testing time. While seniors are strongly encouraged to take their AP exams, it is not required for them to do. 

Despite feeling reluctant to take her AP Calculus AB exam post-graduation in June, senior Tessa Muhle plans on taking her AP exams—Calculus AB, Spanish Language and Art History— to fulfill her conditional acceptances for universities in the United Kingdom. 

“I’m taking three APs this year,” she said. “They want two 5s on them, and one of those 5s has to be on one of the humanities.” 

Similar to previous years, students are not required to attend classes on days that they have AP exams. 

“I’m happy that we get a little bit more time this year,” Dr. Brada said. “It’s always a challenge to get through all of the material in a timely way, just because it really is a broad course. So giving us a little bit more time to review will be good for my students to feel more confident.”

To see format details for specific AP exams, click here. To read the 2021 AP Digital Testing guide, click here.