Prepping for AP Exams in the Time of COVID-19

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Due to changes in school schedules and test requirements, parents and educators can feel overwhelmed and underprepared to assist students with taking AP Exams this year. This has not been not an easy year. While students would normally spend the last month of their class time in AP classes studying for the exam, the absence of in-person classes creates a major gap in students’ preparation. Fortunately, the College Board has recognized the lost class time and made adjustments to the AP Exam administration in order to level the playing field. For AP classes culminating in Spring 2020, the following changes have been made:

  1. Students will be tested ONLY on those topics typically covered in the first ¾ of courses
  2. Exams will be administered online
  3. Exams will be open notes/open book

**The College Board frequently updates their website with information. Please check here for the most up to date information. **

With these changes, the College Board has added layers of security designed to maintain the integrity of the exam and ensure that a student’s performance is an accurate reflection of his or her preparedness. The updated exams have been been written for online administration, and thus, questions will most likely be analysis and connection-based, rather than straightforward memorization dependent. For this reason, students should still spend time studying and preparing for the exam!

Study Plan Adjustments

The changes in the administration of the exam will necessitate an adjusted approach to studying. We have complied a list of 5 important tips for students preparing for any AP exam:

Plan for Test Day

Firstly, make sure your student puts the test date/time onto his/her personal calendar. The College Board asks students to log on to the testing system 30 minutes before the start of their exams to verify their identity and ensure that they are ready to begin when the exam timer starts. It is always safer to assume that there will be some bumps along the way, so allocating plenty of time for setup and readiness is crucial. For most students, exams will be 45-minutes in length, and there will be a 5-minute window for uploading student responses.

Know Your Exam

The College Board website has detailed information on each and every exam that will be administered this spring. The first step in preparing for the exam is ensuring that a student has researched the exam itself and that he/she understands the format and expectations of the test he/she will be taking. Many of the exams have been shortened to include only two or three free-response questions. The information given for each exam details the types of questions that will be on the test and the number of percentage points each question will be worth.

Make Use of Online AP Courses and Review Sessions

The College Board has prepared a plethora of resources for student use that are available for free on YouTube and the College Board’s website. This include exam summaries, practice questions, and online lectures given by College Board professionals. Encourage your student to sign up for a College Board account and review the materials that are provided.

Prepare Student Materials

While it may be tempting for students to gather every note they have ever taken in each AP classes, on open note tests, it is more about quality than quantity. Focus on helping students to organize notes in such a way that finding needed information is easy as possible. Condensation is the key. Make sure that if students are taking a test that requires a calculator, that they have one (and it is charged). Students should keep scratch paper nearby for writing problems or outlining ideas.

Focus on Analytical Skills, Argumentative Analysis, and Quantitative Analysis

Students should brush up on the AP Exam rubric for the tests they will take. Encourage them to spend extra time practicing DBQ-style essay questions and connecting evidence to arguments in order to prove a point. It is important that students understand what requirements each test has in order to earn all possible points from each type of question.  

By helping your student to focus on preparation and make a few small adjustments to his/her study plan, AP Exams in the time of COVID-19 should be a breeze. In some ways, this year’s unique test administration offers students something usually reserved only for college students – the opportunity to earn credit while never having to change out of their pajamas!

Beth McDonald

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