Students prepare for their first free exam season

According to College Board, the average  student takes three AP exams throughout their time in high school.
According to College Board, the average student takes three AP exams throughout their time in high school.
Diana Weng

As the month of May begins, many students at RM have been preparing for one of the most important times of the year: exam season. 

Historically, fees for both AP and IB exams have been quite expensive – some may typically exceed $100. Starting this year, MCPS decided to pay for all AP and IB exams to increase the opportunities for students who were previously unable to take the exams and therefore boost participation in their corresponding classes. This was done with roughly $3.4 million of the yearly budget and in tandem with the statewide program, Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, established in 2021.

According to US News, about 73 percent of RM students took at least one AP test last year, making the waived cost meaningful for many students. IB diploma candidates are also required to take six IB tests over the course of two years, so the newly waived exam fee has provided a sense of relief. 

“I think it really helps push students to take exams and not have to worry about the cost,” senior Maria Larkin said. 

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When the change was implemented, there were worries about students putting less effort into their  studying due to the lack of monetary cost for their exams. 

“Some people may argue that maybe people would study less because it’s not like they have money on the line,” senior Ami Mundra said. “If anything, maybe you’re studying more because you have the opportunity.” 

AP and IB coordinator Joseph Jelen has not noticed a significant change in this aspect. 

“Students have always found it necessary to take time to review, so I’m not seeing any necessary increase or decrease in the amount of time [they’ve studied] since exams have become free,” Mr. Jelen said.

MCPS only will cover exam costs for students who are enrolled in the respective classes at school. Those self-studying for exams still cannot take them for free. 

“I don’t stand in any way for a student to self-study for an exam that they feel prepared for, but at the same time encourage students to always take the course because I think they have a great experience in the classroom,” Mr. Jelen said. “If we were more flush with money, perhaps [paying for self-studied tests] is something we could examine, but the way it works out for now, I think we are putting the money where it is best serving students.”

Overall, reactions from the RM community to the free exams have been mostly positive.  “It reduces that barrier for accessibility to those exams for [them],” Mr. Jelen said.


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