2021 AP exams will return to full-length in both online and paper versions

February 21, 2021 — by Alekhya Vadlakonda

The CollegeBoard has released three different testing periods for the 2021 AP exams, each consisting of a different mix of online and in-person formats, and the school must decide on a testing time slot for each AP subject. 

Principal Greg Louie said the decision will be announced after February break once the school gets input from AP students and their teachers.

All three windows take place in May and early June. The first window of exam administration is from May 3-17 and will require that all tests are taken in person at school, with tests like AP Chinese and AP Japanese supplemented by digital test-taking platforms.

The second session from May 18-28 will have half digital exams that can be taken either at school or at home, and half traditional paper-and-pencil exams at school. 

The third option from June 1-11 will also be a hybrid of both digital and on-paper, with almost all of the exams being offered online. For the two hybrid administrations, the CollegeBoard has decided which exams will be on paper and which will be digital.

Most seniors are hesitant to take their exams in the third session, as most of the exams will be administered after graduation on June 3. 

According to the CollegeBoard, of the AP exams offered by SHS, the Spanish Language, Chinese Language and Music Theory exams can only be administered in a proctored school setting and will be in-person for all three testing windows. The Calculus, Chemistry, Physics and Statistics exams will be offered solely as paper-and-pencil exams in both sessions 1 and 2. 

However, schools are not limited to choosing one time period to administer all exams: They can choose to administer some exams during the first session and decide on a mix of other two administrations for their remaining subjects.

The administration will make this decision in part based on student input. The survey went to students during the week of Feb. 8 and asked them to provide input on which testing period they would like for each of their exams.

Both online and in-person testing have their benefits. Some students would prefer digital, at-home exams where they would be able to test in a familiar environment; however, others would feel more comfortable taking paper-and-pencil exams at school, as that would ensure a secure, focused testing environment — and no technical issues that occur with online tests. 

Senior Dylan Overby, who will be taking the Statistics, Physics 1, Physics 2 and United States Government and Politics AP exams, wants a traditional in-person exam environment.

“Personally, I would prefer the administration with all tests in-person where most things are closer to normal, but I understand why some people might shy away from that,” Overby said. “This sort of testing better represents a testing environment and I get to see people, even if it is testing.” 

If the school chooses to administer in-person testing, it will need to designate appropriate testing spaces and proctors, according to the presentation given by administration to all AP students. The school will also need to consider COVID-19 precautions when preparing for in-person testing, including social distancing and ample air flow. For example, some traditional testing spaces on campus like the Small Gym, though spacious, may not have enough air flow.

The administration plans to coordinate with Los Gatos High School when they make final decisions. They have already reopened the window to order tests for students who originally opted out of testing, and the new registration window will close on March 5.

The school plans to finalize their decision on this year’s testing dates and formats before Feb. 15.

“We do not yet have an answer if exams will be in person, digital or both, but Louie and I are working with AP teachers, department chairs and others to figure out what will be best for SHS,” guidance secretary Kathy Sheridan said.

The specific information for each exam can be found here.