Have a High Schooler? The Impact of Coronavirus on AP Exams and College Admissions


COVID-19 has thrown us all for a loop, and this is especially true for high schoolers. At a time when grades and test scores matter most, there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the air. Just recently, The College Board (they produce the Advanced Placement exams) and the International Baccalaureate Organization announced sweeping changes. Here’s the skinny on AP and IB exams: 

The International Baccalaureate program has canceled all exams this school year. Colleges say they’ll evaluate a student’s mastery of the material by reviewing their quarterly grades since they won’t have a final exam. It’s hard to know exactly how this will work, and each college will likely have its own process.

AP exams will go forward, but they’ll be very different than in years past. Here’s what students can expect:

  • All tests will be online and taken from home. My first thought was about test security, but The College Board states that “exam questions are designed and administered in ways that prevent cheating” and that they use various security tools “including plagiarism detection software.”
  • There will be a choice of two dates for each test (one relatively soon for students who want to study and be done with it, and one later on, perhaps in June, for those who want more time to prepare).
  • On the date and time of the test, a link will be sent to each student to access the 45-minute exam.
  • Test questions are free response, not multiple choice. The College Board is the process of writing exam questions that will be based on material from earlier on in the year. Students should expect to see material that they’ve already covered in class.
  • Colleges will review grades and test scores just like they’ve done in the past when deciding to give college credit for AP courses.
  • You can learn more here

As you can see, there are big changes for AP and IB testing this year. Here’s the good news: They’re not all bad. My personal opinion is that this is actually a huge advantage to students who are willing to put in the time to study. 

High schoolers aren’t being tugged in so many different directions by volumes of homework, after-school sports, part-time jobs, and other extracurriculars right now. If they’re motivated to study correctly (not just re-reading the material, which is never an effective study method), they could see a big payoff for their efforts.

High AP exam scores not only allow students to earn college credit, thereby saving money on tuition, but they’re also a huge advantage on college applications. At a time when many schools are going ‘test-optional,’ meaning they don’t require the SAT and ACT, they’re scrutinizing AP scores more than ever before as another data point.

What does all this mean for your child? Most importantly, there’s no reason to panic. These changes don’t have to be viewed as a bad thing. Instead, use these announcements as a reminder to start studying now—and correctly. 

Not sure where to begin? Check out our recent blog on effective study strategies for some ideas. Or schedule a consult with us to learn more about our online tutoring services. Our tutors will remain up-to-date on these changes and can help your child prepare accordingly.

Click the video below to see my latest appearance on NBC Washington where I spoke about the impact of Coronavirus on high school seniors!