By Jeffrey Mu ’24
With February break rolling around the corner and students up to their knees in tests and papers, the looming AP tests seem to be the least of their concerns, at least for now. But ever since the pandemic hit the AP testing system has been altered quite a bit, and this year Collegeboard will be implementing a new “pilot program” to adapt to the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
This week, we talked to Mr. Young, who teaches AP World History and students who took or currently are enrolled in his class about the College board’s new approach to AP testing, and what this new “pilot program” is exactly.
Q. When’s the AP World History test this year?
A. It’s on May 12th; it’s a morning exam. There’s actually an afternoon and morning one, but we’ll be taking it from school on the surfaces instead of the paper one, we’ve been given the green light to go through with the pilot program.
Q. What is the pilot program?
A. College board is allowing some AP classes to have their students take the exam on their computers either in class or at home; this is of course highly selective across the AP courses, while my class (AP World History) is on the pilot program, for example language AP courses need to be in person and are written with pen and paper.
Q. Which courses at Bell are piloted for this year?
A. There’s only two that I know of, my class and AP English.
Q. Do you think this is better for students?
A. Yeah, I think so. I think that students in general prefer to type if given the choice, and the whole AP test during the pandemic year was a lot of questions, including 5 DBQ’s, so if students could type their response they probably would, plus it’s a lot faster.
Q. Do you think there could be some potential drawbacks to this system?
A. Well there’s always going to be the possibility that students engage in cheating, and that doesn’t go away paper and pen, but honestly besides that I can’t really think of any disadvantage; if you have a school that is in the business of helping students use the pilot program like this in the future then I think the students will be well prepared. Of course there is a world where the schools are unable to provide all students with computers, so it does depend on that. Even so, I think it’s nice to have an option, and even though I don’t think it’s going to be equitable for all students, I generally think that this system is beneficial. Plus, some students prefer to write on paper so I think it really depends.
Q. Why do you think the college board is taking this approach?
A. College board announced last year that the SAT was going to be digital starting 2024, and I think part of their decision making was their experience with the pandemic that influenced their views. Also, they did give a few tests last year that were done on person on paper. It’s often thought that College board has the reputation of being extremely secretive and with very high scrutiny, making sure students don’t cheat, but I think the college board recognizes tech as an increasingly important part of educational system, so that’s why their letting some AP tests be piloted.
Tom Vosganian ‘24
Q. What do you think of AP World History being piloted this year?
A. For some people it may be more stressful, but the tests should be in person for transparency reasons, although I will say that College board is very superstitious of the goings on during the test.
Q. Do you prefer the pilot program or using paper and pencil?
A. I think I would do better typing my exam.
Theo Tchares ‘23
Q. How were the AP tests last year?
A. It was good, the virtual AP test was really nothing to complain about. Of course it was more nerve-racking because we had to make sure the device was charged and connected to the internet. But taking the AP test from home was easier, and the layout was very user friendly. I did not need to worry about my computer at all and could focus on the test.
Overwhelmingly, students and faculty are seeing the benefits of the College board’s pilot program, especially as we transition into the second semester of school. And luckily, it seems are though this program will continue beyond this year and will be applied to more schools other than Bellarmine. So there you have it. While some AP programs are remaining in person, a small amount of them have transitioned into pilot more, and hopefully many more will follow in the coming years.