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Dana Gaudette

The Great Debate: Are the 2020 AP exams designed adequately?

May 16, 2020

Yes. The exams are fair and still thorough.

In light of current events, the College Board has decided to revamp their typical grueling three-hour exam into a 45 minute one with one or two open response questions. Also, the exam will be open notes so that some element of cheating is taken out. While many frown upon these revisions, I, as a sufferer of senioritis, welcome College Board’s revision with open arms (even if it was designed as a way to make sure they still made money). 

First off, many students are disgruntled that there will be no multiple choice section this year. Typically a good place to score some points needed for a 4 or 5. However, I’ve always been one to struggle with this (especially in the AP English exams where much of it is up to interpretation). However, the open-response sections are where the majority of points are either earned or lost in a regular AP test. Basically, if you couldn’t have written a good open response anyway the best you’re looking at is a 3 (as someone who cannot write a history paper to save their life I’m telling you that is based on experience). Also, due to AP’s rigid rubric, it’s not that hard to score highly if you study. With that in mind, look at your AP exam’s rubric ahead of time and trust me, answer as closely as you can to the guide of what they are looking for and you’ll be fine.

Also, the addition of open notes does not mean an easier way to cheat. College Board has added multiple ways to detect plagiarism including a program that can detect how similar responses are to online sources and giving AP teachers a chance to look over their students’ responses to see if anything is too similar. So unless you’re a veteran cheater or extremely creative, odds are you would get caught by either of these standard cheating methods.  

As a graduating senior, I also enjoy that these exams are offered. For the college I’m attending, AP’s get me out of a gen-ed requirement, but none of them can be applied to my major. Therefore, it is better for the vast majority to swallow the $100 test fee and attempt to take these new tests, because in the end it can cost you more to take a class in college that isn’t related to your future field of study. However, I know that it is a case by case basis, so I’d recommend looking into your college to see what their AP credit policy is before you choose to take an exam or not.

 In the end, College Board is a business that wants money and is still finding a way to profit off these exams. Are the new exams as comprehensive as the old ones? No, but I believe that they are a fair option that will not hurt most test takers to try.

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Liza Armstrong, Online Editor

Liza started writing for the paper her freshman year in journalism class after some not so subtle hints from her eighth grade English teacher.  After...

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No. The exams are not comprehensive.

It seems that in a matter of weeks, our lives have been turned upside down due to COVID-19. The daily routines we have been so accustomed to over the years have gone out the window. Everything is now online, from our schoolwork to our AP Exams. 

The College Board has decided to reduce the AP Exams from what was once a grueling three-hour exam to a 45-minute free-response question (FRQ). This begs the question of whether or not this 45-minute exam can accurately determine how well a student has learned the curriculum. Many students worry, myself included, that the one or two questions asked may not be the material they studied hard for, therefore negatively affecting the score they may end up receiving. 

With multiple choice and several FRQs covering all the units, students had a better chance of getting a good score. Furthermore, different students excel at different sections, for example, a student can be well versed in multiple-choice rather FRQs.

Then comes the problem of cheating. Though the AP Exams this year are open note, does it accurately represent how much you know the subject? Or are you spitting back facts you read? There is also the possibility of paying someone or having someone take your place in the AP Exam (say an older sibling who already took it and scored high). 

Another factor of the AP Exams this year is that College Board has also shortened the content covered on the test, meaning students only need to know 75% of the material. My question is how will that be fair in future college classes? Take AP Chemistry for example, students cannot be expected to go into a college-level chemistry class not knowing about acids and bases. 

There is also talk about some colleges placing an entrance exam on certain courses which would defeat the purpose of the AP Exams. Students did not have to pay hundreds of dollars to take an exam that would get waved by the college. 

Overall though, I cannot say that the College Board has our worst interest at heart. They, like the rest of us, have never faced a pandemic before, so I do think they are trying their best given the worst. 

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Aaliyah Yan, Editor-in-Chief

Aaliyah started writing for the harbinger her sophomore year after being convinced by Anna He. She started as an assistant opinion editor and became an...

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