Dear College Board, I (sort of) hate you

February 6, 2021 — by Harshini Velchamy
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Dear College Board:

I have completed one AP course. One. And after the experience from the 2020 online AP tests, the thought of ever taking another AP test again gives me nightmares. 

Here’s a brief explanation of what happened. I took AP European History last year, which usually entails multiple-choice questions, short free-response questions (FRQ) and document-based questions (DBQ), which are essentially just full-on essays. But due to the pandemic, the test was just a shortened version of a DBQ. 

Because I’m horrible at DBQs, I practiced writing for months just to improve my skills. Even on the day of the 2020 online exam, I practiced three essays. Feeling as prepared as possible, I sighed a breath of relief after reading the prompt; it was on the French Revolution, a topic that I actually knew well. Heeding the warnings I’d received about saving time for submission, I finished the essay with about two minutes to spare — proud of the masterpiece I had written. 

Then disaster struck. After hitting the submission button, a glaring message popped up at the top of my screen: We did not receive your response.

Once I’d gotten over the heart attack I got from the message, I spent weeks angrily posting on my finsta about how much I hate the College Board. My for-you-page on TikTok somehow sensed my anger, connecting me with a bunch of other people who had the same thing happen to them. But this isn’t just a rant; I have a few suggestions for how to fix the system.

First, please just automatically save our progress as we work. It seems like a no-brainer that failing to hit a faulty submission button should not determine whether a person has her test graded. Students should not have to panic as they watch their timers tick down to 0, deleting their work forever. 

Also, what’s with this year’s AP tests? Most students feel incredibly unprepared for the coming exams, maybe due to the COVID situation, and yet you still announced that the test format won’t be modified nor delayed by a few weeks to help teachers better prepare students. 

Personally, I would prefer if you modified the test, especially since a lot of students like me who are dealing with online school right now have significantly less time to study the materials, which creates a heavier and harder course load. In order to work in an online format, most of our tests in AP classes are open-book, contributing to a lack of motivation to learn the material thoroughly. 

Please consider delaying the exams to  June or modify them so we aren’t taking them for three hours long inside classrooms, a potential way to spread coronavirus.

So far, you’ve remained adamant about in-person tests, but with COVID-19 still raging in parts of the country, alternative plans should be a top priority.

College Board, please be more understanding — far more understanding that a faulty submission button that failed to save my best DBQ ever.


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