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Studying For AP Exams: Quarantine Experience

Starting on May 11, the College Board started offering AP finals exams to students around the world who have been working hard and studying for this examination for the entirety of the school year. Of course, this year’s test is not the same that students have been used to for quite some time. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, most AP students around the world are unable to attend any testing center due to health risks and social distancing responsibility; therefore, the College Board has decided to make the testing online on their website. Controversially, they have decided that most of the AP tests (especially social studies) would be based around only one question (in most cases a DBQ: Data-Based Question).

This decision has been received with harsh criticism from both students and teachers alike, who believe that one question to evaluate one’s readiness and commitment to a class as a whole is ridiculous. I’m in the group of harsh criticism, especially since I am paying $150 for evaluation on just one question. For example, for the SAT, an international student pays $45-$100 for an exam that has more than 100 questions. College Board’s decision made me feel like I am being robbed.  Additionally, any perfect scores or low scores on this year’s AP exam will have an asterisk because it only evaluated one area of skill which depending on the student can be their weakest or strongest area.

Having no choice but to take the tests for college credit, I began preparing and studying for my two AP exams: AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang) and AP US History (APUSH). Though I did sign up to take a third AP this year,  AP Computer Science, the actual test-prompt was canceled and I had to do two performance tasks/projects instead.

I’ve had a complicated experience trying to study for these exams. First, I am in my house, which means I am constantly exposed to different distractions such as my computer, video games, etc. Add to that the fact that many teachers right now, of all weeks to choose from, are assigning summatives, which doesn’t help in giving me time to study for my exams. The biggest reason, however, that I am struggling is the difficulty of implementing study sessions and habits while at home that I used to do in school: most of the studying I ever do for tests or any type of summatives is while I’m in the car and going to school as I live far away and have enough time to review critical information. This routine would be repeated daily, two weeks prior to the assessment; as a result of these habits, by the time it was the day of the test, I would be extremely prepared and confident of achieving success. But with quarantine, I have struggled to keep pace with my previous work ethic. While the time I do dedicate to studying isn’t terrible, I certainly could do better.

On May 15, 2020, I took my first AP online exam: APUSH. My experience was a bit nerve-racking because the computer that I own tends to be quite slow in random circumstances and it can hinder performance. I have a PC instead of my MacBook since the battery had malfunctioned and stopped working, forcing me to use my PC. Thankfully, technology was not an issue in this case for me. However, time was a problem as, during the last five minutes of the exam, students are supposed to stop their work and submit it through the program of College Board. I didn’t exactly follow that instruction as I was finishing my last body paragraph and going to my conclusion at the start of the last five minutes. Luckily, I finished my work with a minute left and managed to successfully turn in all work in time.

I feel quite annoyed from this experience because of how shortened the test became and how it revolved around one problem: I am the kind of person who requires a bit of a warm-up in order to fully perform at my highest level; if no pandemic ever happened I would have faced a multiple-choice and SAQ (Short Answer Question) before my DBQ, which would’ve relaxed my nerves and helped me perform better in all tasks and improved my chances at getting a higher score. Nevertheless, it is the situation I have to deal with now. The APUSH test is a thing of the past and now I must focus on my next exam which is on May 20th, 2020 for AP Lang.

All we can do is our best in these difficult circumstances. I wish the best of luck to all AP test-takers on all of their examinations. May you have a successful experience!

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