Do I Take the May 2021 AP Exams?

For students questioning whether to take the AP exams, wondering if they’d score a 3 or higher to merit college credits, especially since adjusting to virtual learning may have detracted from learning subject material, I offer the following advice:  

First, consider what information on the test may not be presented in class before the test date, and what effort would be needed to learn the material well enough to score a 3 or higher on the AP exam. Then, reflect on the probability of completing the additional studies in the next eight weeks, again at a level of comprehension needed to obtain a 3 or higher on the AP exam. 

Second, ask teachers which test date administration and which format, digital or paper, will be given at their high school, both of which will again be the traditional three hour exam. The three choices are: 

From The College B AP Central

Third, students would be prudent to assess their understanding (or lack of) the course material ahead of The College Board’s Live Review sessions on April 19–29. Then, during each workshop, students can focus on the concepts they most need to understand.

Fourth, keep in mind that AP test scores are not a consideration in college admissions decisions, so a missing AP exam will not be a disadvantage during the college admissions selection process. 

Fifth, students earning college credits with AP exams can avoid taking general education requirements during college, free then to take other interesting courses, add an internship, independent research, or study abroad.

Sixth, since some teachers offer a grade boost for earning a particular score or may absolve students from taking a final semester exam for taking the AP exam, students may want to consider those additional benefits against any perceived or realized costs

One last caveat: if students can choose either to test either on paper or digitally, before choosing the format, students should consider how they best demonstrate their knowledge. 

On traditional paper exams, students can flip back and forth in the test booklet answering questions at random, if needed, as well as review their work. However, they will have to take the test wearing a mask, which may be discomforting, complicating an already complex testing experience. 

On the digital format, for security reasons, students may not review previously answered questions or click back and forth to preview questions. Thus, students can’t skip more difficult questions to return later, a common test-taking strategy.

Additionally, the following subjects will only be tested in the paper version.

  • French, German, Italian, and Spanish Language and Culture; Latin; Music Theory; and Spanish Literature and Culture, Japanese Language and Chinese Language
  • Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and Statistics are offered solely as paper and pencil exams in both Administration 1 and 2, but will be available digitally in Administration 3. 

For more information about how Creative Marbles Consultancy can help students and parents navigate the college admissions process, accounting for the disruption in their education, contact us at Creative Marbles Consultancy.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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