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AP Adversity

Beginning with the first Advanced Placement (AP) exams on Monday, May 11, thousands of students were unable to submit their answers. As students continued taking additional tests during the week, more and more students reported technical difficulties and expressed frustrations about not being able to submit their answers.

Note: Trevor Packer is Vice President of Advanced Placement for The College Board

For the students who experienced technical glitches during AP Exams the week of May 11-15, their only recourse is to request a retake of the AP exams in June. Only today, Sunday, May 17, 2020 did The College Board announce a backup email submission process for their answers, which only applies to tests that will be taken starting tomorrow, May 18, 2020, and will not be applied retroactively to AP exams taken last week, May 11-15.

There is still no investigatory process to understand why students were unable to submit their answers during the May 11-15 exams, and possibly accept students’ answers now that exams are completed.

As subsequent AP tests were given during the next several days, The College Board continued reminding students that they’ll see a “Congratulations” screen once their final answer is submitted, which is their only confirmation they’ve completed the AP Exam. However, as at least one student learned, “Congratulations!” screen isn’t always the end of their AP test:

The College Board did not empathize with Ms. Tickle’s concern or her student’s predicament, only offering that the student could retake the test in June, a message they repeated all week.

Additionally, even though the original test preparation checklist which was published on May 4 and The College Board recommended students complete prior to the test, does not list the technical settings now recommended to Ms. Tickle on May 13, no one from The College Board took responsibility for the lack of direction, in essence transferring the responsibility for the technical complication to the student, who now has to “pay” by retaking the test.

For students who had intermittent technical issues from one test to the next, The College Board still only offers a test retake as their only recourse.

On Wednesday, May 13, ahead of Savannah M.’s technical glitch, The College Board offered the following statement to Inside Higher Ed:

“We share the deep disappointment of students who were unable to complete their exam — whether for technical issues or other reasons. We’re working to understand these students’ unique circumstances in advance of the June makeup exams. Any student who encountered an issue during their exam will be able to retest.”

Frustrations with AP Testing, May 14, 2020

During the week of May 11-15 additional technical issues, including outdated browsers, which again were not guidelines included on the original test preparation checklists, many other students experienced answer submissions issues, so were compelled to register to retake the AP Exams starting on June 1. Yet, confirmation that the student is registered to retake the AP exam will not be sent until at the most six days before the first makeup exam date, the week of May 25.

For the next ten days, however, students will live in limbo if they should continue their preparation efforts to retake the test or if their request will be denied, as well as worry that the technical issues will not be resolved for the June tests, and if they’re denied submitting their answers a second time, they will have no later makeup test to demonstrate their comprehension and potentially earn college credits.

For many AP Exam takers who are high school Juniors, on the cusp of applying to college, whose families may now be experiencing unexpected financial difficulties, being awarded college credits from AP Exams may be essential to affording the increasing expense of college, so having to retake AP exams may only heighten students’ anxieties.

An online petition signed by 3,200 people says, “My dear friend Natalie and I are two of thousands of AP students who weren’t able to submit our AP exams due to a malfunction in the College Board website. We’ve worked hard all year to learn and earn some college credit so we can have a head start and make sure we can graduate college on time or early. We’ve studied hard for the last few weeks and were looking forward to earning some college credit today. Now we might have to retake our tests several weeks from now or lose our chance to get college credit.”

Frustrations with AP Testing, Inside Higher Ed, May 14, 2020

As of posting this piece today, May 17th, 17,420 people had signed the online petition requesting The College Board review their policies and allow students to appeal for their answers to be accepted, so they will not need to retake the AP Exams in June. The nearly 600% increase in the number of signatures in just two days seems to indicate growing frustration amongst students and parents, compounded by the cancelled SAT’s and ACT’s, for which, to date, The College Board has announced they will not accept late answers and students must retake the exams.

As we discussed earlier this week here and with Education Week, The College Board’s policy to compel May 11-15 AP Exam takers to retake the exams, disregarding students’ frustrations may fundamentally alter the academic meritocracy, thus have long-standing consequences for The College Board.

Featured image courtesy of u/heildirimsiegerkranz


Jill Yoshikawa EdM, a UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, works tirelessly so clients succeed. Contact her at (916) 769-6092 or jill@creativemarbles.com