College Board releases adapted 2021 AP exam schedule

By Claire Lane

The College Board announced updates to the 2021 Advanced Placement Exam schedule earlier today.

In a statement posted to their website, the College Board spelled out its newly-adopted test date schedule, which is set to include three separate testing choices for each subject available between early May and mid-June. 

The changes come after months of speculation on how the company would proceed in administering its end-of-year exams, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep students outside physical school buildings — and reliable testing locations. 

“We’ve made decisions that prioritize the health and safety of educators and students while preserving opportunities for motivated students to earn college credit,” the College Board said in its online statement. “Rather than offering a single testing approach that would serve only some students and educators well, we are offering a variety of testing options.”

There will be three test date options, referred to by the College Board as “administrations.” In Administration 1 (May 3–17), students will complete all exams on paper in a school setting. In Administration 2 (May 18–28), half of the subjects will be completed on paper in school, and half will be digital, administered in school or taken at home. In Administration 3 (June 1–11), all exams except nine subjects are digital, administered in school or taken at home. Every exam will last for its typical two to three hour duration as opposed to the previous school year’s abbreviated 45 minute version.

The exams for French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish Language and Culture, Latin, Music Theory and Spanish Literature and Culture will not host any digital version. According to the College Board, students’ access to outside resources, including translation applications and musical instruments, compromises testing security throughout certain parts of full-length digital exams.

“It’s fair for foreign languages to ask students to take the exam in person,” said junior AP French student Aksel Bell. “There are so many online translators that could do all the work for the student, and it wouldn’t reflect their actual capabilities.”

Last year’s AP exams, which were conducted in an entirely virtual setting for all subjects, were riddled with concerning technical errors. Some students remain unsure as to whether their exams will submit properly this year.

“The change from the typical format of the tests can create a lot of uncertainty about preparation,” junior Ava Von Pechmann said. “And it adds the element of technical difficulties, which can be really stressful for students to handle.” 

Still, students recognize the importance of offering digital exams at this time.

“The current state of the pandemic is too intense for in- person testing nationwide, and students have become accustomed to learning online throughout the year,” Von Pechmann added. “Requiring them to test in person would be an abrupt shift that would probably result in worse performance overall.” 

To some, the option of retaining a virtual testing environment is relieving. A number of students enjoyed last year’s online testing, in large part due to the more practical and relaxed test-taking setting.

“The online AP Government test was so convenient; I just took it from a home,” junior Anna Curran said. “Online testing honestly makes testing easier because it lacks a lot of the components that make exams so stressful.”

The schools themselves will decide which exams to offer, and may use any of the testing options as circumstances warrant.

“Everything is so uncertain right now,” Curran said. “But I trust schools and administrators will make a sound decision that accounts for student’s safety and education requirements.”