At approx. 11.15 AM this morning we got word from the College Board on the plans for the AP Chemistry exam in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. Firstly the facts, in a nutshell, for AP Chemistry.

  • No face-to-face exams in 2020
  • Instead, 45 minute, at home/online tests
  • 2 different dates to be announced April 3rd. (My guess is that one will likely be around May 7th, one later)
  • UNITS 1-7 from the CED will be examined, but NOT UNITS 8-9
  • 100% refunds available
  • No MCQ questions, only FRQ’s (this particular detail was announced a few hours later by Trevor Packer on Twitter)

Packer’s Twitter thread has a bunch of other information, and you can read it below.

Now, all of this raises a ton of questions, here are just a few of the most obvious, but frankly there are a million more.

1. How can cheating ACTUALLY be stopped, and therefore how can the integrity of the ‘exams’ be maintained?

I literally cannot see any way to prevent an expert being in the room, helping a student on the exam, even considering webcams, IDs, lock-down browsers etc. These cryptic words came from Packer; The at-home AP Exams this year will not include any multiple-choice questions, only free-response questions adapted for secure testing at home. They will measure skills that can’t be learned from Google or chats with friends. By April 3, we will post the specifics for each exam.

I suppose I should say that I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but I am LONGING for ANYONE to explain to me, in simple terms, how cheating can be avoided. I literally don’t think that’s possible. I also have NO idea what, “They will measure skills that can’t be learned from Google or chats with friends” means, and it speaks to my ultimate conclusion below.

2. What about teachers and kids that have NOT taught in the chronological order of the CED. How is this maintaining the integrity of the test and course for them?

The answer is that it isn’t (see below)

3. If the CB has cancelled SAT’s (that they have on May 2nd), why not cancel AP’s?

I suspect it’s nothing more than attempt to avoid hundred of thousands of kids cancelling their exams, and with it the loss of income.

4. Why are colleges prepared to offer credit for an exam/course that will be decimated?

TBH, that’s a problem for the colleges, NOT me or the kids. If they are going to award credit for a decimated exam/course, that’s their problem, not mine, but it’s indicative of the lack of integrity of the whole situation.

Questions 1 and 2 above are enough for me, but ALL questions relating to this situation are really irrelevant to the single, overriding consideration that means that the AP exams should be completely cancelled in 2020. It’s a consideration that American educators seems to have a complete blind-spot about. Time and time again I’ve seen no outrage when this problem has reared it’s ugly head before (albeit in very different circumstances). I don’t understand why American educators are not constantly aggrieved by it. Simply put, it’s this.

Rather than make the right call, the College Board have decided to move the goalposts. The whole academic year has been conducted upon an understanding of an exam being offered (and taken) in accordance with a set of rules and protocols that (admittedly through no fault of the College Board – but that fact is irrelevant), have now radically changed, and have become utterly untenable in their original intention and format. As such, the AP exams should not go ahead. We’ve been working toward a goal that has now completely shifted. The answer is to cancel the AP exams in full, and not to ask students and teachers to compete with one another in a new game, which has little or no relation to the preparation that we have all been working toward for the last seven months. The right thing would be to cancel the AP exams in full for 2020, not make up a new set of rules on the fly. It’s fundamentally unfair, and lacking in integrity.