College Board needs to extend the time limit for the AP Exams


Alexis Witkowski, Staff Writer

Without a doubt, the coronavirus outbreak has required us to adopt many life adjustments, including changes within the education system, one of the most significant being the College Board’s AP Exams. The College Board has already announced the overall adjustments they are planning for the tests, such as eliminating the multiple-choice portions of each test and therefore keeping the exams strictly free-response. For instance, the AP English Language and Composition test is now only a single rhetorical analysis essay, as opposed to the traditional multiple-choice section followed by three different types of essays.

Although the test has been shortened quite a bit, the College Board doesn’t adequately compensate for the difference in the testing environment. Instead of being in a quiet location with hundreds of other students also quietly working, students are now expected to maintain that same level of focus in what are often loud, noisy households. The College Board needs to acknowledge that it is more challenging to work at home due to distractions like younger siblings, parents working from home, etc. and appropriately extend the timing to make up for it.

After surveying twelve high school students taking an AP Exam, the results showed eleven out of twelve are in favor of extending the time limit to account for the change in the testing environment. Ellie Liuag (11), a student at Santiago High School, explains, “With the change in how the tests are administered, College Board should allow us an hour to take the exam. I have three other people in my house that use the internet. My sister is a double major in college and is swamped with online classes. My mom is also a teacher who has been on Zoom with her students as well as staff members. Not to mention my dad who already works from home. Many students have crowded and noisy households at the moment which leads to a greater risk of distraction. The Internet connection can also be really slow and it can take more than five minutes to upload submissions. Though we get to take the tests at home they will still be difficult, if not more difficult to take.”

In concurrence, Sara Lerner (11) even argues that an hour and a half would be suitable. She has also noticed that ever since her brothers came home from college, her house has been a lot louder. In addition, with so many people using the internet at once, her Wi-Fi has slowed down. She now worries it might be more difficult to upload her response.

Sebastian Pintea (11) is taking five AP Exams this year and personally thinks “…we should have at least an hour to take the exam. By extending the time, it will make the free-response questions more doable since the test is centered on conceptualization and would allow students more time to focus amidst their specific home environment. The test itself should be an hour, with a 10 minute submission time. The increase in testing time would benefit me because I live in a household where I am always occupied, we are always undergoing projects not only in my home but in the neighborhood as well. Adding those extra fifteen minutes would make a drastic difference.”

Adding on, Erin Chen (11) advocates for an hour or an hour and 15 minutes to take the exam. She states, “Now that we are in quarantine, it’s not like someone can drive to the library to take the test.” She also acknowledges that there are a lot of individuals with younger siblings who may not be quiet when asked to since they don’t understand the situation.

Furthermore, Niyah Ramos (11) gets distracted very easily since she “live[s] with five other people who always talking, asking questions, blasting music, or watching the TV. Our house isn’t big; therefore, I can hear absolutely everything going on.”

Ava Kavanagh (junior) believes the forty-five minute time limit is absurd with the change in the testing environment and realizes that “so many students may not have good internet connection or live in a terrible environment where people don’t care whether they are taking a test or not” and will cause ruckus regardless.

Mental health also needed to be taken into account with the drastic change in the testing environment. Xiomara Avila (10) recognizes that “some individuals struggle with getting distracted easily and having a hard time focusing, especially if they have a disability.” Breana Knighten (11) worries about the timing of the tests as well. She comments, “I have ADHD and my house is insanely chaotic all the time. I already know that there’s no way I’ll be able to focus and finish in time.” Breana’s ADHD makes it harder for her to focus her attention when there are too many things going on all at once. It’s ridiculous that the College Board expects all students to be able to have the same level of focus in a quiet testing area as well as in loud household with multiple people present.

Some might argue that there’s no need to increase the time to take the test. After all, this is the normal timing we have been preparing for all year. Harrison Huynh (11) acknowledges that some households have more distractions; however, “the time limit is a part of the test that they are trying to administer.” While Huynh doesn’t have strong feelings either way, if he had to pick a position, he offers possibly an extra five minutes to make up for any distractions. Some also argue that academic integrity may be compromised with the extra time.

Though we have been training all year to finish within a certain time frame, I’m more focused in a quiet testing area as opposed to my house. Due to the coronavirus, not only is my mom working from home and always on loud conference calls, but my brother is attending his Zoom lectures for college. With the noise level higher than usual and the entire family home, I can’t imagine myself not getting distracted or losing focus. Additionally, academic integrity is already compromised since the test is online. Not only do students have internet access to help them, but it is an open-note exam, so time will not be a catalyst for cheating. Cheating will happen regardless of whether there is a time increase or not.