Coronavirus and AP Exams: How to Take the New Online AP Exams


The New Online AP Exams

The Canadian band Rush once sang 'he knows changes aren't permanent, but change is'. College admissions procedures are changing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

And of course, with change comes its share of controversy. For starters, the rigorous AP exams, usually taken by high school juniors and seniors, have been reduced from 180 minutes to a rather surprising 45 minutes. If that's not enough, the multiple choice portion of the exams has been eliminated too.

What's at stake? Well, if a student doesn't pass the related AP exam, they don't get college credit. However, the class credit still counts toward their high school diploma. This is no small matter either, as last year about 5.1 million students took AP exams.

The good news for students, who mostly are already tech-savvy anyway, is they can access the exams on computers, tablets, or even their smartphones. To be fair, the AP exams will only cover subject matter all schools would have taught by early March anyway, when the school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak took place. Interestingly enough, the new guidance states that students will have the option of photographing their handwritten work too.

Needless to say, social media was taken by storm by this announcement. However, we should duly note the College Board claims 91% of the students still want to take the tests. Problems that have been pointed out by detractors include:

  • Internet access is not available for all students
  • Some students have poor home learning environments
  • Some students have less money to purchase technology
  • Sadly, it will be way too easy for some students to cheat
  • Free response questions favor native English speakers
  • Students on block schedules have less prep time

On the other hand, proponents have pointed out:

  • No proctor is needed for the exams
  • Each test can be taken on two different dates
  • Students without vehicles won't need to drive to an exam site
  • Offering shorter exams in emergency situations is not unprecedented
  • Students can receive a refund and not take the shortened exams

Furthermore, in a 'classy' move, some teachers are planning to offer their time tutoring students in small groups for AP exams, if they don't have online access at all.

The online learning platform is an outstanding way for you to prepare for the rigors of the online AP exams. The website features thousands of four-to-ten minute animated lessons on a great range of subjects. After each video concludes, you will have the opportunity to take a brief five-question exam to solidify your newly-acquired knowledge base. In addition, you can access all sorts of educational material, including:

  • Activities
  • Project ideas
  • Unit plans

Getting Started With New Online Tools

So how do students get started with this seemingly daunting online process? It's not as hard as they think. The College Board has already released some helpful online tools at its 'AP Central' website. Students can simply go to 'My AP' to sign in and access the 'AP Classroom' feature. Now, it is important to note that most of this information originally referred to taking AP exams in person, but the website is being continuously modified and updated to reflect the changeover to the online exams. Some of the tools on the site include:

  • Course information
  • Instructional resources
  • Personalized timeline
  • Related online tools

In addition, students can take the online 'Student Tour' at 'AP Central', and teachers can take the online 'Teacher Tour', and the latter can share thoughts on a 'feedback form' too.

The 'AP Central' site has a wealth of other pertinent information including:

  • AP question bank
  • Exam day tools
  • Personal progress checks
  • Progress dashboard
  • Registration for coordinator training
  • Streamlined student registration
  • Unit guides


Don't forget to confirm your registration for the online AP exams at the aforementioned 'My AP' website.

What Do Colleges and Universities Think?

At first glance, one may be inclined to believe colleges and universities would frown upon these shortened 45-minute AP exams, or not even accept them. However, quite the opposite is true in this unprecedented situation in 2020. Many admissions representatives have been praising and thanking the College Board for this decision, as it has made their decisions on how to admit students so much easier this school year.


The ProctorU website is an online human-powered platform for administering exams that is utilized by learning institutions, and was founded in 2008. We mention this site because critics note that if it was used the online AP exams could be longer than 45 minutes. However, opponents note this would force the cost of the AP exams to be much higher.

International Baccalaureate

We should point out here that International Baccalaureate, which has a similar program to the College Board and is based in Switzerland, has already canceled all of its exams this school year.

Special Needs Students

Many special needs students with disabilities want to take the AP exams too, and allowing them to take the tests online has created some unique challenges. These students may need 'accommodations' such as braille devices, magnifying devices, large-type, written copies of spoken instructions, or even extended time. If you are a student with special needs, it may be of your benefit to contact the College Board to find out if online AP exam options will be available to you.

In the End

In conclusion, the coronavirus outbreak has led to the AP exams being moved online, although students will have two chances to take them, as opposed to the normal 'once each May' testing session. The website is a great way to learn new information for the online AP exams. Furthermore, special needs students may need additional guidance negotiating the new online testing format this year.

Many colleges grant credit or advanced placement to students with qualifying AP Exam scores. Read on to find out when AP Exams are offered and get information about exam costs and preparation.

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