FACEOFF: In-Person vs Virtual AP Exams

Virtual AP Exams (C.M.)

From the beginning, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many obstacles for students. Because of this, Miami Palmetto Senior High School students have the option of taking certain AP exams   such as AP Government and Politics AP Environmental Science, various mathematics APs and more virtually rather than in-person, similar to virtual testing during the 2019-20 school year. This option has its benefits. 

When deciding which course of action to take, whether virtual or in-person tests, it depends on the individual student’s needs and what they feel may help them do the best on their exam. 

Many students find it difficult to focus in the usual testing locations as there are many distractions, such as other students and miscellaneous noises. Students who find it easy to get sidetracked may do better on exams if they take it in a familiar area in which they can control the environment. 

Students often find testing as a whole a stressful process. At-home AP exams give some students the opportunity to take their tests in a comfortable setting. Oftentimes, taking tests in random classrooms disorients students and can leave them feeling unready to take their test. 

The obvious advantage of virtual AP exams is the safety from COVID-19 that one’s home provides. While Miami-Dade County Public Schools take necessary precautions to lessen the spread of COVID-19, parents and students alike can ensure their safety by opting for online exams. 

There are also the fun little perks of taking at-home tests, like the ability to return to the comfort of your own home just by leaving your seat rather than having to wait to drive home or having a snack or drink that you could otherwise not bring to class to energize you. 

In terms of format, College Board has made online AP exams very similar to the usual AP exams students take so that students are able to reap the benefits of an at-home exam while also feeling familiar with the testing format. While last year the exams changed drastically in terms of content (they only consisted of free response questions) this year, the exam has the standard multiple choice questions as well as written response questions. Just like physical exams, College Board offers virtual test takers practice exams and demonstrations of online testing so they can prepare themselves like a physical test taker could.

With the discussion of format, one should definitely take into consideration the test they plan on taking. For example, someone taking a test that involves a lot of writing should note whether or not they consider themselves a faster writer or typer. Those who believe they can handwrite faster may find it better to take the physical test; meanwhile, fast typers could benefit from the virtual test. 

With AP exams having started the week of May 10 for some Palmetto students, it is very important for many AP students to make an informed decision on how they test, as surroundings, among other factors, can greatly influence one’s performance. 

In-Person (I.L.)

As students start preparing for their Advanced Placement exams, some take advantage of the online testing option, due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with schools finding ways to create COVID-friendly classrooms, one should consider taking in-person exams.

A huge concern is the fact that online exams are quite different from in-person exams when it comes to maintaining one’s status during the exam. Since no proctor is monitoring what one does during the exam or one’s use of a second device, taking an online AP test is less secure, making students more likely to cheat. 

The physical exam is a safer way to ensure one earns the AP score they deserve. Taking it online gives multiple advantages to those who find it easier by getting help rather than using critical thinking skills. Although the pandemic has been hard for students, it still seems inappropriate to take  online AP exams. 

College Board has made some changes to the formats of online and in-person testing, as well. With online testing, students must feel 100% confident in their choice when clicking their response on the multiple choice section, as one may not go back to the previous question; the exam locks. Although it is ultimately the student’s choice, the student should understand the consequences of online testing. The environment may be more comfortable, but there is a greater risk of cheating and one must be decisive with their  responses. 

Taking the exam in person means there is a smaller chance of an error message popping up on one’s page or one’s computer crashing during the exam. Additionally, with a traditional paper exam, one is guaranteed to earn the score they deserve without others questioning it.