A Reflection on Historic At-Home AP Exams 2020


(Credit: Maevis Fahey)

Neha Sunkara '21, Food and Wellness Editor

I think we can all agree that these last few months have been pretty crazy. We’ve had to isolate ourselves in our homes for around three months, we use hand sanitizer every few minutes, and we cannot hug anyone outside our families. Add AP exams to that craziness, and what do you get? Somewhere close to insanity, at least for me (the week of the exams was also the week when I was running for Exec Sec). So, first let me tell you my story and then I’ll reflect on the exams with the inputs of others.

My first exam was AP US History, or APUSH. Right afterwards, I had Computer Science A, or CSA. That whole morning, I was shaking, literally. I was making the whole house shake. I was so nervous for my exam. I kept trying to tell myself it would be okay. We had done so much preparation in class that I was definitely ready. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “why is she so stressed out for an AP exam that colleges probably won’t even count and that she is so ready for.” Let me tell you, I DON’T KNOW! I seriously have no idea why I was so nervous.

When the thirty minute mark rolled up before the exam, my dad was holding my hand giving me a pep talk, but I still couldn’t stop shaking. Okay, what happened next deserves an explanation beforehand. I do not consider myself a person who has a lot of anxiety (yeah right, you’re literally shaking). I promise you I have never had a panic attack before. But, during the first ten minutes of the exam I had a panic attack. I saw the exam question and at first I was like this exam won’t be too bad. Then, I thought about it and I lost it. All the stress of the week came crashing down unto me. I was shaking so bad I couldn’t type. But, I ended up writing an okay DBQ. At the last five minutes of the exam, I was still writing. I was ignoring all the warning signs in my head and my mom telling me to stop. Then, I had a minute left and I was trying to upload, but I couldn’t find the upload button.

I had practiced with the demo at least five times, but I still couldn’t find the button. Then, the timer ended and I hadn’t submitted. I want to pretend like I didn’t start sobbing, but I did. I immediately signed up for a retake and on May 28, the College Board responded that I could take the exam again! Whoop, whoop! So, the lesson I learned from my APUSH exam, that my dad keeps repeating, is that panic leads to heartache. Because I panicked so badly, my APUSH exam went awry. If I hadn’t panicked, I would have done great. Right after I “finished” the APUSH exam, I had my CSA exam. But, the difference was that I didn’t freak out on the CSA exam. Before the CSA exam, I listened to music, like pump up music like Life is a Highway by the Rascal Flatts (I don’t know why it’s my hype song, but it is, so don’t judge me). Listening to music almost completely took away my nerves. My suggestion is to do something to cool your nerves before you take an exam or anything like that, such as listening to music or taking a walk. It really helps!

So, as many people know, the AP Exams were 45 minutes, online, open-note exams this year. There were a lot of varying opinions on each characteristic of the exams. About the 45-minute time limit, Lucy Stefani ’21 reflected: “I think certain exams were do-able in the 45 minute time slot, but it was barely enough time for exams that involve essays.”

I felt that too. My CSA exam was fairly easy to finish in 45 minutes, but the APUSH exam was hard to do in 45 minutes. Some students said they liked that the exam was online since that meant the exam was open-note, which made it easier to retain information, and that the exam was shorter. I was very happy when I heard that this year’s AP exams would only be 45 minutes instead of 3 hours. However, Jenn Uche ’22 said: “I feel like I would want to be tested more holistically and the online exams didn’t do that.”

Anna Sheehan ’21 said: “I really hope we are back at the desks next year. It didn’t feel right taking an AP exam at home and I lacked the motivating pressure of waking into a classroom and taking the exam with classmates around me.” I agree with Anna. If I was in a real classroom with my classmates, I do not think I would have panicked as much as I did on the APUSH exam. Also, since the exam was shorter, it consisted of only one or two questions. A person who would like to remain anonymous said having only one or two questions “was worse because your entire score comes down to one or two questions; if you don’t know the answer or even just misinterpret the prompt, your grade could suffer from that.” Overall, there were many mixed emotions about the new AP exam style. Who knows if it will remain the same or change next year? What is your opinion about the new AP exams?

Neha Sunkara ’21, Food and Wellness Editor