May 11: Chapman University, don’t expect me to receive 4s or higher on all my AP tests


From the comfort of her own home, senior Michelle Buckley uses her smartphone to take a picture of herself as she prepares for her May 21 Advanced Placement Macroeconomics exam by writing her ID number and initials at the top of each scratch paper.

Michelle Buckley, Editor-in-Chief


This is part of a series of columns from The Accolade staff about their various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at [email protected].

When I first found out in April that the 2020 Advanced Placement [AP] exams were going to be performed online, I figured that the test-taking process was going to be much easier. 

I thought that because the exams were now “open-note” and only lasted 45 minutes with an additional five minutes to allow for submission, they would be painless, and I wouldn’t have to worry so much about studying for hours on end. However, once I finished my first AP Government exam on May 11, I realized how severely mistaken I was. 

Even though the test-taking process may have seemed easier to me back in April, I still dedicated a lot of time to study for my five exams. I knew I couldn’t solely rely on my notes during the actual tests, so I worked on practice exams, watched YouTube videos and completed Khan Academy units to prepare. 

Before the start of AP exam week, I kept on wondering as to how the College Board could shrink a four- to five- hour test into 50 minutes and give students a score based on two questions. It didn’t seem like a fair deal, considering how much material is covered in each class. More importantly, I was paying $94 for a two-question test. That was a total rip-off. However, I figured that they knew what they were doing, and they would make it as fair as possible. 

I felt confident going into my AP Government test after receiving an A in the class, studying for hours and having my notes next to me in case I needed to look anything up.  

However, as the “Time Until Exam Starts” clock ticked down, I got more worried second by second. 

What if I don’t submit my responses in time? 

What if my computer crashes? 

What will I do if my notes don’t help me? 

Once I began the first question, I set all worries aside and focused on the task at hand. It was going pretty smoothly until I realized that I only had less than three minutes to turn in my work. I don’t think I have ever typed as quickly as I had that day.  

After completing question two and finishing the test, I felt drained. Lengthwise, 50 minutes felt like five minutes. Workwise, it felt like four hours. 

Although I tried to, I couldn’t even use my notes for timesake. But when I thought about it, most of my notes consisted of all the Supreme court cases I was told by my government teacher to know inside and out for the exam. None of them were on the test. Thanks a lot, College Board. 

I felt relieved that I completed my first exam, but I am not confident that I will earn a 4. Any score lower than that would be a waste of my parents’ money since the college I decided to attend in the fall, Chapman University, will accept for college credit AP scores of 4 or higher

Despite preparing for hours for the exam, I felt rushed in trying to get my answers done quickly. I also found it annoying that the test contained no multiple choice questions, which on the normal test, would have accounted for 50% of my overall score. I would assume that because the test is online, the College Board would try to make it easier on not only the students, but also the graders and put portions of multiple choice on each exam. Whether someone knows the subject material or not, some students are better multiple-choice test-takers than free response-takers — myself included. 

However, I was glad that I didn’t have to manually write out my answers. It was an option, but I preferred typing my work because it went by faster, and I had the privilege of auto-correct for grammar and spelling on my laptop.

The following day, I took my AP Calculus AB exam, and the day after, I took my AP English Literature exam.

The one thing that irritated me on my math exam was that the amount of work for each problem and the corresponding time did not coordinate. For the first 25-minute problem, I was expected to complete an eight-part question. For the second 15-minute problem, I had to complete a seven-part question. I didn’t understand how having 10 minutes less for the second question equated to having only one less part to answer. 

On my English exam, I was given a passage to analyze and write a style-analysis essay on. For my AP English Language exam last year, I had my passage in front of me so that I could mark it up and take notes. But now that everything was online, I couldn’t take notes at all and lost track of certain words and phrases that I wanted to use in my essay. I was told that I could print out the passage, but I was afraid that it would be too risky and too time-consuming. And was there even an allotted time to print it out? No. 

Although I don’t feel super confident about my scores, I’ve been told by my parents time and time again that with everything that’s going on, it’s understandable if I don’t do well. But I like to tell myself that it’s because of everything that’s going on that makes me want to do better and not let some pandemic slow my growth. 

No matter what scores I get, I’m proud of myself for not backing out of the tests and taking on the challenge. Although the exams didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, I won’t let my anticipated results define my worth. 

And, the subsequent Twitter memes for every exam surely make up for it.