Everyone has heard that “education is the key to success,” though at what cost? Recently with at home Advanced Placement (AP) exams, many students have complaints about not being able to upload their test. The previous 3 hour long exam has been shortened to a 45 minute free response exam due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The College Board has stated that only one percent of the number of students who had taken the exam had encountered submission difficulty. After all the controversy from students, the College Board has announced acceptance of test scores through email, alongside allowing a small number of students to take makeup exams. This, however, isn’t enough and doesn’t satisfy most students after what they’ve gone through. Many question whether or not AP exams should be cancelled or not. Though many believe that AP exams are key to college success, it isn’t worth the hefty price and extraneous efforts for an exam within a faulty system that is against those with insufficient accessibility.  

The Price of Education

The cost to take an exam, the materials for it, and the tutoring or other resources needed can build up and be costly. AP exam fees without reduction are on average $95, while with reduction it is $62. Many students tend to take multiple APs within a year, and the cost piles up. On average, students who strive for the most selective schools will take between 3 to 5 AP’s within a year, meaning that the cost for those exams can range from $285 to $475 without reduction. The total price of AP exams can be extremely pricey and with faulty AP testing this year, many students feel they wasted their money. Not only that, many students may not have the necessary materials for test prep or textbooks, limiting their success on AP exams. Therefore, with the given COVID-19 situation, students shouldn’t be expected to pay for something that’s faulty and possibly not worthwhile.  

Extraneous Efforts

In addition to paying fees, students spend hours studying and preparing for their AP exams. The new shift to remote learning has been a struggle for many students, especially during AP exam season. Students would have to study for their exams alongside dealing with the struggles of online class workloads. With remote learning, students aren’t able to have the same learning environment they once had, and may have more difficulties and disruption. Students don’t have the same motivation and structure as they did when in a classroom. For example, students aren’t receiving traditional grades and tests and aren’t as engaged, which may influence their success rates for AP exams as they are in a completely new and unusual situation. The pandemic has not only affected the students but teachers as well. Research has shown that one fifth of lower income schools provided live video teaching, while wealthier schools were twice as likely to provide it. This means that low-income students are at a disadvantage because they don’t have the same learning compared to wealthier students, meaning they may get less review and learning about these AP exam subjects. Though studying and preparing for AP exams may be the least of their struggles as they also have to experience the difficulties of juggling part-time jobs, school, family, etc. Thus, College Board’s continuation with AP exams makes student workloads more difficult during this pandemic and makes AP exams less successful. 

Insufficient Accessibility

Thousands of students tuned in to take their AP exams in hopes of their hard work paying off. Students around the world had joined at unreasonable times due to time zones. Students were expected to take exams at 4am or 6am, extremely early times for tired and deprived students. In addition, many students have difficulty concentrating within their environments. Low-income students struggle to have strong WiFi to take the test or have distractions from family. Studies say that around 15% of students lack internet access at home as many cannot afford it. Therefore, if their WiFi were to cut out during the test or even have a delay, it could lead to the dreaded “We Did Not Receive Your Response” message. AP exams are unfair to many students who struggle with accessibility difficulties. These challenges combined illustrate the dependence of AP exam takers on a test that determines their success, whether good or bad.

Faulty Test Systems

With all the efforts in preparation and efforts during the test, thousands of students ended up unable to even submit their exam. Many reports from AP test takers say that they experienced technical difficulties trying to submit their work. The College Board had stated that the cause might’ve been due to outdated computer systems, though even with the newest laptops and browsers, students experienced the same problems. The College Board also stated that only less than one percent of test takers experienced technical issues and with 2.2 million students taking the exam, that leaves thousands with unsubmitted scores. College Board’s faulty systems should have reduced dependence on student success as they are inequitable for those with technical barriers that are out of their control.

The Key to College Success

AP exams have been taken by students for years as a key to college success. Therefore, many students oppose the cancellation of AP exams, but those concerns can be eased by improving policies within the College Board system. Some people want the continuation of AP exams as they want to receive college credit and scores for college applications, which can help save thousands when entering college. Some may also object by saying that one’s class success may not reflect one’s learning as they could have cheated their way through the year, thereby not proving themselves when it comes to college. Though many students worry about their future success, their worries can be fixed by making changes with how students receive credit and easing financial burdens. 

Refining College Board

With complications of AP exams, students who want to continue AP exams to receive college credit should be given reduced prices or no cost at all, no matter their financial status. It is unfair to pay the normal price of an exam that is faulty and have it determine your financial status in your future with college. In addition to cost—saving for college—students should have the ability to receive college credit through different options rather than depending on AP scores. For example, credit could be given through class grades or class success, rather than a simple numerical score. However, some students believe that it isn’t completely representative of the student as they might have cheated their way through the school year. Therefore, this new policy could involve teacher recommendations and other analyses of the students class success and performance. A more holistic approach can help ease these concerns of student performance. AP exams pose a challenge to many students, and they shouldn’t have to continue with this issue if inequitable. 

The Need For Change

The College Board’s claim of being a non-profit organization to help students succeed in higher education doesn’t quite seem like what most students are experiencing. The price of education has been a barrier for students for years. The issue of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened this financial and educational barrier. The College Board’s decisions to reshape the AP exams to continue during this event hasn’t helped students for the better. Students still struggle with the financial burden of paying for AP exams and the necessary materials for it. In addition to money, they also waste time spending hours studying and striving for a perfect score. That perfect score could be influenced by home environments like family and WiFi, something out of their control. However, even with an ideal environment and thorough preparation, that could all be jeopardized by the faulty AP exam system. AP exams have been around for quite some time and have allowed for many students to receive credit to succeed in college, but times like this is where AP exam policies should be changed to adapt to students’ needs.