Advanced Placement students decide format of their exams by subject

Originally published in La Plaza Press


Advanced Placement review books are shown above on Feb. 28, 2021. AP students may better prepare for their exams this year knowing their format choice and possible test modifications. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)

College Board has announced that each Advanced Placement student is able to choose the format of each of their exams this year: digital at home or paper at school. This has also prompted changes in exam format in which some AP exams may differ digitally than in person. 

Students taking any exams digitally are instructed to download College Board’s Lockdown Browser on their device in order to enhance the security of online testing during their exams. If students check out a Chromebook from school, the device already has the LockDown Browser installed. Thus, teachers are highly encouraging AP students to check out a school chromebook if they are taking any digital exams. 

A checked out school chromebook is shown on Feb. 28, 2021. Students are encouraged to check out a school chromebook if they are taking any Advanced Placement exams digitally as the chromebooks are already equipped with a lock-down browser.. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)

In Redlands Unified School District, AP students completed a survey finalizing their exam format decisions. 

The following AP students explain their exam preferences based on subject groupings. 

Math exam perspective

Citrus Valley High School senior Jordyn Usher is taking AP Calculus BC. 

AP Calculus AB and BC will comprise 45 multiple choice questions and six free response questions. For the digital exam, these free response questions will be adapted to include answers that can easily be typed on the computer, therefore no creation of graphs will be necessary.

Usher said, “I would rather take this exam in person because it is completely math-based; typing out derivative and integrals on the computer would be very difficult, and I could annotate the important aspects of each question to help me correctly solve each problem.”

Science exam perspective

REV junior Jack Bartely is taking AP Environmental Science and AP Chemistry as his science courses this year.

The AP Chemistry exam will consist of 60 multiple choice questions both on paper or digitally for section one. For section two however, paper exams will include seven free response questions while digital exams will include 40 additional multiple choice questions and only three free response questions. 

 For the AP Chemistry exam, Bartely said, “Online because the online test this year will have more multiple choice questions and less essays.”

The AP Environmental Science exam will remain unchanged in test format for the digital and paper exams with its traditional 80 multiple choice questions and three free response questions. 

For the AP Environmental Science exam, Bartely said, “In person because I have been handwriting the essays in this class all year, and with in person tests we can change answers, but with online they are locked in once you move onto the next question.”

English exam perspective

REV junior Charlotte Baldes is taking AP Language and Composition. 

The AP Language and Composition and Literature and Composition exams will both include its typical multiple choice section, 45 questions for Language and 50 questions for Literature, and three free response questions. 

Baldes prefers the digital format for all of her exams this year. She said, “I also feel more comfortable and less pressured. I also find I type way faster than I write.”

History exam perspective

AP European History is often the first AP class that many sophomores take in high school. For this reason, it can be daunting for one to take their first AP exam without much experience on how testing was traditionally given. 

REV sophomore Emma Miller is taking AP European History as her first AP course. 

Asides from the 55 multiple choice questions and one Document Based Question essay, the digital AP European History and AP United States History exam differ from the paper exam in that the digital format requires two Short Answer Questions in place of the Long Answer Essay in the paper format. 

Miller said, “I would rather take it digitally because being thrust back into the school environment suddenly on top of taking a stressful test sounds very difficult. As much as returning to school is important, consistency throughout the school year and people’s safety takes priority in my opinion.”

AP exam testing will take place from May 3 to June 11. Students’ testing dates are determined by their decision to take the exam on paper or digitally.

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