Everything students should know about the AP and IB exam changes.

 By Callia Peterson, ’22

As COVID-19 rapidly spread across America and schools announced their dates of closure, students faced digital alternatives to their typical classroom activities along with dramatic changes to the annual Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams that were originally set to take place in high schools across the country in May.

When announcing the cancellation of IB exams and when introducing the new format of AP exams, both the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) and The College Board assured students, parents, and faculty that the safety of students and educators was at the forefront of their decision. 

Originally, IB credit was awarded to students based upon an Internal Assessment (IA) and External Assessment (EA). The IA includes classwork evaluated by the teacher such as oral work in languages, laboratory work in sciences, investigations in mathematics and artistic performances. All of the IA work will be sent to the IBO for evaluation, as done in the past. However, all EA examinations are cancelled and instead the IBO will use the students’ performance in class and their completed IAs to evaluate them for credit.

As of spring break, most students had not finished their IAs for many classes and they will be completed at home. For example, the oral IA for IB foreign language classes will be evaluated by teachers and recorded over Zoom.

The changes will not prevent IB Diploma Candidates from receiving their diplomas, given they still receive enough points based on their IAs and performance in class previous to the cancellation of the EA examinations.

Senior and IB Diploma Candidate Callie Hundley said that her perspective on the changes varied after hearing the news that the tests for the four IB classes she took this year were cancelled.

“I think when I first heard about it, I didn’t really have a lot of emotions because I was just like: ‘Wow, that’s a really big change,’” she said. “I was a little bit disappointed because we have been preparing a lot and I was actually sort of genuinely excited to see what I could do. But just with the reality of the situation, I understand that this is something that IB thought would be the best thing to do.”

Unlike the IBO, instead of cancelling AP exams The College Board has modified the exams to be administered to students from the comfort of their own homes. Following a survey of 18,000 students, The College Board chose the format of the exam to best meet the needs and desires of the students surveyed.

The changes include:

  • Exam content only from topics most teachers have already taught by early March.
  • The exams will be open book/open note.
  • Most exams will have one or two free response questions. If an exam has multiple free response questions, each question will be timed separately. 
  • Each exam will be 45 minutes long and include a five minute upload period. Note: Students should take 30 minutes before the exam to access the online testing system and get set up.
  • Students can submit work through any device (computer, tablet or phone).
  • Students are able to type and upload their answers or write them by hand and upload a photo.
  • Students who are taking AP World Language and Culture classes will complete two spoken tasks. Written responses will not be required. 
  • Art and Design, Drawing, and Computer Science courses will submit portfolios with an extended deadline and will not need to participate in a separate exam. 

The online exams are set to take place between May 11 and May 22. Make up tests will be administered in early June. More information about when specific tests will take place is listed on The College Board website. 

Junior Alain Welliver was set to take four AP tests in May. He said he wanted The College Board to approach the situation differently. 

“There’s definitely an option to not take the test at all which I would have greatly prefered,” Welliver said. “The idea of doing a 45 minute version of a three [to] four hour test is kind of scary.”

IB/AP coordinator Cynthia Ballhiem sent out several announcements regarding AP testing on Schoology and has informed IB students about the new ways they will be evaluated for their class scores and diploma credits. She will be sending out more information on Schoology regarding AP testing as the May exams draw closer. Students can contact her with any questions at cballhiem@uaschools.org.