Students don’t give a pass to online exams


Elise Hsu

A student takes the practice Advanced Placement (AP) exam. “I have told every student to take the practice exam and watch the clock,” said Katherene Ortiz, the AP coordinator for Carlmont High School.

Natalie Nielsen was almost done with her Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus test. She had already finished the first question; all she had to do now was submit her answer to the second question. With over four minutes left on the clock, she attached an image of her work and hit the “submit” button.

However, something was wrong. Nielsen was unable to submit her response to the second problem on her exam.

“Without submitting that answer, I had no hope of a passing score,” said Nielsen, a junior at Rosemont High School.

Nielsen is one of the thousands of students that could not submit their tests during the first week of AP testing. According to the 2020 AP Exams Data Overview, 7.2% of test-takers did not complete their test for various reasons. These reasons ranged from a broken “submit” button to unknowingly submitting corrupted files. These students were all given the same response: schedule a makeup exam in June.

Shortly after taking her AP United States Government and Politics exam, Sarah Dunwoody, a senior at Carlmont High School, realized that she forgot to include her AP ID and initials at the top of her response. After searching online, she could not find anything that could confirm the validity of her exam.

“I couldn’t find any information on my specific problem,” Dunwoody said.

Unsure if she would have to make up her test, Dunwoody emailed the AP Support Center, but she did not get a response. On May 12, Dunwoody found the answer to her question in an Instagram post from College Board. However, she wished the answer came earlier.

“I wish I’d known that [I didn’t have to retake the test] before I wasted so much energy worrying about it,” Dunwoody said.

The College Board is very active on their Instagram and Twitter accounts, where they post testing information and practice questions. However, some social media users claim they are hiding something about their online presence.

On May 10, a Reddit user under the username Dinosauce313 created APTests2020, a subreddit designed to be “a community of students taking the 2020 AP Exams and wanting to use online resources while doing so,” according to its description.

Another Reddit user believed that the subreddit was too good to be true. According to Vulture, it is speculated that the College Board created Dinosauce313 and APTests2020 to catch students who were planning on cheating during their tests.

When asked about Dinosauce313’s identity, Rafael Montalvo, a senior at Carlmont High School, said he believed the account could be affiliated with the College Board. According to the College Board’s exam security policies, officials would be monitoring social media sites to detect cheating students.

“I could easily see them taking an extra step and trying to deceive people through social media,” Montalvo said.

Anouk Clendenning, a sophomore at Beaverton High School in Oregon, was skeptical of the hysteria.

“Dinosauce313 could just be someone who is posing as the College Board to spread rumors about them. There’s no good way to know at this point,” Clendenning said.

This year’s AP tests must be submitted by attaching text or audio files, copying and pasting a response, or attaching photos. After the first week of testing, College Board introduced a fourth option: backup email submission. This option involves submitting a response through a unique email address that appears if a student’s initial submission attempt fails to go through.

Melody Liu is a senior at Carlmont High School. After submitting an exam with five seconds to spare, she was worried that her submission did not go through. She believed that backup email submission would give test-takers a fair chance to submit their exams.

“The College Board is trying to protect students who have the knowledge but had technical difficulties, and I think that’s helpful,” Liu said.

Sophia Tsoukalas, a sophomore at Port Chester High School in New York, did not have difficulties during her tests, but some of her friends could not turn in their responses. She agreed with Liu, but thought that the option should have been available from the beginning of the testing season.

“It’s unfair that students have to take a makeup exam because of a mistake on College Board’s part,” Tsoukalas said.

Katherene Ortiz is the AP coordinator for Carlmont High School. Until shelter-in-place orders were enforced, she was preparing to administer on-campus exams. She felt as though nothing could have prepared anyone for what happened next.

“There was no manual for what we just went through,” Ortiz said.

Similar to Liu, Ortiz believed that the backup email submission was a sufficient response to submission failures. But like Tsoukalas, she also wished test-takers who had errors during the first week had a chance to resubmit their work. When those students applied for makeup exams, another issue came to light.

“Unfortunately, the College Board has some makeup exams that are on the same day at the same time,” Ortiz said.

According to the College Board, students in this situation can request exception testing from June 1 to June 6. Students who did not know about this option felt conflicted over which exam they needed more. Ortiz felt as though students should not have to decide, as both exams gave chances to earn college credit.

“There’s no way you can make a student choose one exam versus the other, especially if it was not their fault that their submission didn’t come in,” Ortiz said.

As the testing season continues to unfold, numerous students are reflecting on the College Board’s ability to administer the exams. Clendenning believes a lack of communication hindered a well-meaning attempt to continue giving students the opportunity to take their tests.

“It’s good that they were trying to have college credit available to students, but there just wasn’t much transparency,” Clendenning said.

Although Ortiz believed the testing season could have gone better, she sees it as a learning opportunity for all.

“I don’t know what AP testing will be like next year… Whatever it is, we will definitely learn from this year,” Ortiz said.

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