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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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Two AP exams to be digital at Jackson-Reed

This May at Jackson-Reed, two Advanced Placement (AP) exams will be held online: AP Computer Science Principles, which was held digitally last year as well, and for the first time, AP African American Studies. More are yet to come. 

This transition from paper testing is a result of College Board’s decision in 2022 that in May 2023, certain AP exams would be eligible to be taken digitally. These exams include AP Computer Science Principles (AP COMP-SCI), AP English Language (AP LANG), AP English Literature (AP LIT), AP European History, AP Seminar, AP US History (APUSH), AP World History, and will include AP African American Studies (APAAS) for May 2024. The College Board is giving schools across the US the option to hold the tests on paper, online, or a combination of both, leaving it up to individual students. 

The digital versions of the exams maintain the same number of questions, the types of questions, and the time constraints of the paper version, and are taken on the Bluebook testing app, the platform used for the digital SAT/PSAT. This app allows students to highlight texts, make annotations, and move around within sections. However, similar to the paper version of AP tests, students are unable to go back to previous sections after completing them. Digital exams take place at school, on school managed devices. 

While JR offers all but two of the exams eligible to be taken digitally, administration decided to administer only the AP Comp-Sci exam online last spring. This exam is three hours long and consists of both multiple choice and free response questions. 

College and Career Center and AP Coordinator Elizabeth Levenson explained that JR chose to solely administer the AP Comp-Sci exam last year as it “was [a] short [exam], so a pretty straightforward one.”

 The objective was to minimize the effects of the technological issues that can arise when long exams are held online, mainly difficulties with the battery lives of laptops. While the Bluebook app will automatically save the test progress of students’ whose laptops run out of charge, students may lose precious minutes while a new device is being set up. 

Some teachers and students at JR have expressed interest in taking exams like AP LANG, APUSH, and AP LIT digitally, as those tests include writing numerous long passages. An anonymous junior taking AP LANG does not understand JR’s decision for maintaining certain exams on paper, saying that “we just spend so much time typing our essays, so it’s kind of weird for us to be doing it on paper,” adding that  “I feel like it made sense a couple years ago when a lot of work was on paper, but now it doesn’t make sense with the way we do it now.” They also noted the environmental benefits with transitioning to digital tests. 

 However, Levenson divulged that while around 75 students from JR took the AP Comp-Sci exam last spring, 250-300 students often take the AP LANG and APUSH exams each year. If those tests were to be administered online, Levenson explained, then many technological issues and complications could arise due to the sheer amount of students that would be taking the exams in one room. Senior Isaac Yebio shares this concern with Levenson on administering more popular exams digitally, “given the infrastructure at this school specifically.”

English teacher Sheeba Rashada understands the school’s decision to only administer two exams digitally this year. “I can see why [administration] wouldn’t want to tamper with [the full list of digital exams], until they can be reassured by the College Board that everything’s going to be on the up and up, [and] if things happen, this is what you can do,” she said. Rashada also recognizes the pros of taking the AP LIT exam on paper, mentioning that “hand-writing [the essays] does have some benefits, just in the areas of revising and editing.”

Despite concerns over administering certain exams online, the College Board has announced that in May 2025, all of the AP exams on the list above, including the addition of AP Psychology, will only be offered to schools digitally. Levenson noted that “the biggest test which is related [to the AP digital exams] is going to be the [digital] SAT in March…that will be a really good test for the AP digital exams.”

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Maya Roskes
Maya Roskes, Spread Editor
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