Updates on online AP courses and exams

After COVID-19 caused the College Board to administer online AP exams, Dr. Abate reflects on the ups and downs of online learning and testing.

Gavin Sidhu, Media and Culture Editor

Despite the difficulties of online learning and testing, Malvern students are persistent in earning college credit from the Advanced Placement program. Malvern teachers are adapting in order to help prepare students for the difficult AP exams using newly available online resources.

Last May, the outbreak of the coronavirus forced the College Board to administer online Advanced Placement (AP) exams, something that had never been done in the history of the program. 

Many students and teachers were skeptical about the exam, wary of the possibility of technological errors interfering with test takers. The possibility of missing out on college credit because of a botched one hour test worried students in the program.

In a survey sent to Malvern juniors and seniors, five out of twenty-three students reported that they opted out of an AP exam due to the pandemic. The most common reason for opting out was because of virtual learning difficulties, with others saying they didn’t like the short-answer format.

Dr. Agnese Abate, an upper school chemistry teacher, serves as Malvern’s AP coordinator, being responsible for organizing and administering the AP program.

Abate says that despite the at-home and open-note atmosphere, the online exams were just as difficult as past exams.

“The online exam, I think, was as hard as the previous in-person exams. The questions were parted off, and the students couldn’t have had more than two or three minutes for each part,” Abate said.

AP scores for Malvern students were slightly higher than in previous years, but Abate believes this is due to the fact that more unprepared students opted-out.

“I think the scores last year compared to the previous year were better,” Abate said. “One factor could be that less students took the exam, so the population of students who took the exams were very, very sure they could prove their understanding and knowledge, so I think that that raised the bar.”

Seven months later, Abate says that the AP program is running much more smoothly. One reason for this, she believes, is the availability of resources to AP students.

I think that the amount of resources they’re providing now is much better than what it was last year,” Abate said. “I am using these resources, like videos, and many more questions on my AP College Board account, which are really, really useful.”

Abate also thinks it is important for teachers to adapt to the intricacies of virtual learning.

I think everyone needs to adapt to online teaching right now, I think it is much better for the AP program because College Board is providing more online resources than before,” Abate said.

Abate says that this school year, AP exams will likely be in-person as usual. 

The College Board is saying that they want to have an in-person test, which means three-hour tests for most exams, but they don’t know yet, because we are having a second wave [of the coronavirus] right now,” Abate said.
Even with the difficulties of online learning and testing, Malvern students have shown that they are persistent in succeeding in the AP program with the help of new resources and help from their dedicated teachers.