What to Know About Coronavirus Changes to the 2020 AP Exams

Are you in the midst of adjusting to home-based learning and wondering what to expect of this year’s AP exams? The College Board has your safety in mind and has recently developed a new testing process for students impacted by coronavirus school closures. Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus changes to the 2020 AP exams:

How has coronavirus changed the AP exam format/process?

All 2020 AP exams will utilize a new format to accommodate a test-from-home structure for students. Most of these tests will be 45 minutes in length and will consist solely of free-response questions. In addition, they will only focus on the material that most schools were able to tackle by early March. Classes with portfolio assessments will maintain that same format—with some changes to due dates and the extent of work required. You can find the details for your specific AP exam and its testable content here.

AP exams will be completed online via computer, smartphone, or tablet. Try to complete the test with whatever device you’ve grown accustomed to using for your at-home studies thus far. Students will also have the option to handwrite their responses and submit them in photograph form. 

Unlike in previous years, there are two exam dates that students can choose between. This means that test-takers can either:

  • Complete their AP test early on, while the content is still fresh in their mind.

  • Take additional time to prepare and build their confidence.

In short, AP students should plan to make adjustments to their prep, but otherwise rest assured that end-of-year exams will be made available to all AP students who are interested in testing—no matter their current schooling situation. 

What do these coronavirus-prompted changes mean for you?

Given the format and delivery style for the 2020 AP exams, test-takers should assume that the new exam will likely depend more on analysis and understanding and less on memorization (in other words, information that is easily searchable). Plan to understand the material well enough that you can quickly and easily relay that understanding to others. As you review, teach the content back to your parent, sibling, or a tutor to ensure you’ve digested it well enough. 

45 minutes will sound like a relief to some and a stressor to others. While a 45-minute test may appear less intimidating in length, keep in mind that it is now all free-response. This means you’ll have no wiggle room to balance out your score by performing well on other problem types like multiple-choice. You’ll need to be capable of thoughtfully responding to relevant topics from the testable portions of your AP course. Consider adjusting your study plan accordingly. It may be worth considering these items:

  • It won’t be enough to be able to recognize the right answer the way you can with multiple-choice—you’ll need to be able to quickly translate mastery of that knowledge into words.

  • Plan to take the time to converse more broadly about your AP course topics and takeaways with your tutor or study partner. While this is always a helpful step in the learning process, students may find it especially beneficial for free-response exams. 

  • Adjust your preparation to free-response practice and—where possible—guided critiques from an online tutor or instructor.

  • Make sure you feel comfortable writing a strong introduction and conclusion, and that you’re equipped with transitional phrases for your responses. On test day, you’ll want to focus as much of that 45-minute window as possible on the question at hand!

The College Board has expanded its AP resources in light of the shift to home learning. Check out their website for more information about what content will be tested, as well as resources to supplement your learning for the remainder of your AP class.

If you need a hand adjusting to the new exam format, don’t forget that Varsity Tutors is also here to help. Learn more about AP tutoring here, and good luck!

If your family has been affected by a COVID-19 school closure, Varsity Tutors is here for you. Register now for Virtual School Day, our free resource for parents, and enjoy access to live, online lessons and other K-12 learning resources.