By Abigail Alvarez ’21
Even though the school year is winding down, AP classes are gearing up to take their exams. This year, the College Board decided to offer three testing windows with in-person and at-home options, offering more flexibility for schools across the nation. Typically, schools administer AP exams during early May. However, for the 2021 exams, the Edison Board of Education chose to opt for testing during the third window in the first two weeks of June.
Last year’s AP exams marked the critical shift in AP testing. For the first time in history, students took abridged, online versions of the AP exams at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Collegeboard adjusted these drastic changes for this school year yet again. Their decision to administer full-length exams ignores the continuing unprecedented circumstances. In such a volatile environment, preparing for AP exams—lasting three hours and spanning nine units—adds more stress on students.
While some may reason that taking exams in June gives students more time to review, prolonging these exams places a heavy burden on the burnout brains of high school students who have already mastered the art of procrastination. Rather than finish the endless essays, study guides, and test prep sessions in May, students are forced to prepare for their exams up until almost the last full week of school. it drastically affects the end-of-year structure—especially for seniors.
Even though end-of-year traditions like the Powder Puff, Mr. EHS, and Prom will potentially be looking different this year, the June AP testing dates do not account for their existence. Scheduling these testing dates during the prime-time for end-of-year events prevents students from enjoying them. Preparation for the AP exams throughout May interferes with such activities and extends the rigorous academic pressure into June. For instance, the Class of 2021 prom—originally scheduled for June 4th—needed to be moved to the Friday before graduation after the Board of Education chose the June testing dates without consulting any of the student body.
Considering students are the ones taking these AP exams, the decision to proceed with pre-selected dates from administration restricted students from expressing which testing window would work best for them. Surveying students to hear their opinions would provide some reassurance to students trying to navigate the end of the year in such uncertain times. Although many factors influence the dates for AP testing, students never got the opportunity to weigh all their options.
Since a majority of May will be used as the quintessential cram season for these AP exams, students will have less time to plan and attend these school spirit events considering their close proximity to testing. The repercussions of extending AP testing into the first two weeks of June disproportionately affects EHS seniors. With strict parents and study schedules, the prospect of salvaging fun and engaging senior year seems nearly impossible. These testing dates in June deter students from participating in school events because they feel obligated to prioritize their commitment to studying for AP exams.
Selecting the second testing window in late May would have brought a reprieve from the demanding schedule. In a normal school year, the last month and a half after AP Testing would be dedicated to more engaging and creative endeavors—such as projects and presentations—other than countless practice exams. After a year of hard-work, these fun educational assignments serve as a reward for students. Oftentimes, these projects and presentations take on a more imaginative spin to the traditional AP exam prep. Now, AP students will be losing the chance to explore beyond the exam and into topics that pique their interest.
Removing the time for these enriching activities—in and out of the classroom—stimulates burnout. The change in testing dates from May to June affects the traditional end-of-year experience that students devote all their time and energy into. AP senior students will have only one final full week of school free of AP testing before their high school careers end. This abrupt conclusion removes the opportunity to enjoy AP classes without the worry of AP exams. Administering tests in June does not provide a healthy gap between the end of testing and the end of the school year, leaving students feeling burnt out rather than refreshed in the last days of school.
If the Edison Board of Education selected the second testing window in late May, they would avoid many of the aforementioned issues. Although administration may reason that June testing dates will allow teachers more time to prepare, in all prior years teachers have been able to get students in prime testing mode by May. A majority of teachers remain on a consistent schedule leading up to exams to ensure they cover all the material before the deadline. Thus, administering the AP exams for the second window in late May would align more with previous years.
The decision for the Edison Board of Education to move forward with the AP testing dates in June offers more problems than solutions in an effort to promote normalcy in an abnormal year. As AP students continue studying hard in their coursework, teachers and administration must be aware of the effects rippling through the various aspects of students’ lives. June testing dates disrupt end-of-year plans, restricting students from cherishing their last few memories at Edison High. In a year ravaged by the pandemic, every moment matters even more, but these students are left to just countdown the days.