At RM, three AP exams have gone digital


Hannah Lee

AP U.S. History is among the exams that RM took digitally this year.

Samantha Cutler, News Writer

Starting this May, RM offered three AP exams in a digital format: AP World History, AP U.S. History and AP English Literature. These are three of seven exams that the College Board recently digitized, which includes AP Seminar, AP Computer Science Principles, AP English Language and AP European History. 

The decision to administer a digital AP exam is made by the individual school on a class-by-class basis. “Schools were offered the choice of digital exams or paper/pencil exams in some subject areas,” RMIB Magnet Coordinator Joseph Jelen said. “These three subjects were identified after consultation with AP teachers. The teachers considered their course structure and weighed benefits the digital exams may bring.”

When considering a transition to a digital test, RM teachers considered student feedback on exams from previous years. “We were given the choice at RM if we wanted to continue on paper or wanted to make the change,” RM AP U.S. History teacher Lisa MacFarlane said. “The AP U.S. History teachers decided to go with the online version because we sensed that was the direction AP testing was moving, so better to prepare now.”

Many members of RM staff think that the College Board is beginning the shift towards entirely digital exams. “It is likely that the College Board will move all of their AP exams to digital in the coming years and thus it is helpful for students to see this type of exam,” said Jelen.

The exams were full-length, consisting of the same amount of multiple choice and free response questions as a paper test, and the test-taker could also move back and forth between questions and essays within the same section. 

Teachers have been making an effort to better prepare students for a testing format that they have not seen in other years.

 “Most of the long essay assignments this year have been on the Chromebooks to help students better prepare,” Ms. MacFarlane said. “Personally, I don’t enjoy grading online, but it makes sense for the students to practice in the same manner that they’ll test. I’ve also posted practice questions on MY AP Classroom and Albert so students can navigate around multiple choice questions.” It is AP teachers’ goal to simulate testing day as accurately as possible. 

Mr. Jelen feels that RM has been preparing students well for this transition. “I believe that digital exams play to our students’ strengths. RM students are strong writers and used to composing their thoughts via computer. In addition, our students are adept at taking exams digitally as they have for other assessments,” he said.

Ms. MacFarlane had faith in her students, but knew there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty going into this new style of exam. “As of now, I think the biggest question mark right now is how the app will work and how easy students will be able to navigate around it. We’ll have a better idea after we see how things go this year so we can better prepare students in the following years.”