Changes to AP exam regisration benefits the College Board, not the students

October 29, 2019

Starting this school year, the College Board has implemented new changes to its Advanced Placement program. Previously, a student would enroll in an AP class and would wait until second semester to sign up for an exam if they so choose. If they did not want to take an AP exam, then they would just not sign up and not have to pay the $94 fee. Not taking the test would not affect their grade whatsoever.  

Now, a student is automatically signed up to take the AP exam for their class. This is done during the first few weeks of school when all students “join” the class. From here, students have two options: pay $94 for the test or fill out an ‘alternate assessment’ form and pay $25 to opt out of each exam. This alternate assessment is also new this year; it is a test that students take in their class if they choose not to take the AP exam, which will affect the grade in the class. If the students do not meet the deadline of Oct. 18 to sign up for an AP exam—or fill out and pay for the alternate assessment form—then the late fee adds $40 to the total cost, which is $15 more than before. 

One of the main issues with these changes is that now students must pay no matter what they choose to do. Students taking AP classes are now forced to either take the AP test for more money, or take an alternative assessment for less money, but possibly impact the student’s grade. If a student fails an AP exam, there are no academic repercussions. However, failing an alternate assessment could possibly mean failing the class, which is something that goes on an official transcript that colleges can see and base their admissions and scholarships on. If a student fails an alternate assessment in an AP English class and fails the class because of that, then there is a chance that they may not graduate.  

A concern with these payments is who they will be benefitting: The College Board. Before, people were perfectly fine being a part of the AP class and not taking the test. Now, it almost feels as if students are being given an ultimatum: take the AP exam or take a test that will significantly impact the class grade. If the student decides to take the test, the student must pay nearly four times as much as if they do not want to take it. However, if the student decides to fill out the alternate assessment form, they not only still have to pay, but they must state a reason why they do not want to take the test. Why does it matter? This may cause a student to feel some degree of shame and embarrassment, which may even further pressure them to sign up for the exam, which—again—costs more money to take. Because of this, the College Board is taking in more money while students are losing more. 

Another main issue with these changes is that students are forced to decide whether they want to take the AP test or not months earlier than before. The deadline to sign up for the AP test falls on the last day of the first quarter, but the test covers nearly four quarters’ worth of material. Before, a student had more time to figure out how comfortable they are with the material before choosing to sign up for the exam. Now, if a student was comfortable with the introductory information, signed up for the exam, then started to struggle with information later in the year, that student may not be very comfortable taking the test anymore. Unless they wanted to pay the increased fee and not take the test, this may negatively impact the student’s scores.  

AP exams have been a staple to many high school students’ curriculums for decades. They are extremely useful to help students gain college credit that they would not otherwise be able to receive, which can save time and money. Hopefully, these changes do not negatively impact the appeal of these tests, and these changes are utilized to improve the high school experience of all students as much as possible.  


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