For high school students, studying for an Advanced Placement (AP) exam is stressful enough. Imagine their stress when, in the middle of this year’s online exam, they submit their answers only to receive a message that their submission can’t go through.
Tens of thousands of students who spent months studying to take their AP exams this week experienced technical problems while taking their exams.
The College Board offers a make-up window in June. But that’s less than ideal, as students will have to repeat the stressful process all over again just because of technical glitches. And what if they run into technical problems then?
Naturally, students are upset. All week, they and their parents have taken to social media to voice their concerns.
Things turned particularly rocky on May 14, the day of the algebra-based physics exam, also referred to as Physics 1. A large group of students ran into trouble submitting a response to the second question.
“Today was such a joke. I was pressing submit for SIX ENTIRE MINUTES. 6 minutes. Really all I could do was cry and watch the time go down. Thank you college board, thank you,” one student tweeted.
“@CollegeBoard I really stressed out for the AP Physics 1 just to have the submit button not work in my second question. I felt so confident when I was actually doing the test and thought, hey maybe i’m going to do good, why was I so nervous, and this happens,” another student tweeted.
Throughout the week, the College Board has stuck to the position that only 1-2 percent of students have experienced technical problems. And that, the College Board explains, is something it anticipated.
“Given the wide variety of devices, browsers, and versions students are using, we anticipated that a small percentage of students would encounter technical difficulties, and we have a makeup window in June so students have another opportunity to test,” the College Board tweeted on May 11.
But some doubt the validity of these numbers and the College Board’s approach to retesting.
“Given that more than 15% of my school ALONE had similar issues as me, waiting for the buffering of the submit button after successfully uploading pics/all work, this statistic makes absolutely NO SENSE,” one student tweeted.
Another tweet reads: “If only 2% had issues submitting (which I highly doubt), then why can’t these students retake it within a week instead of waiting a month?”
Yet another tweet reads: “I think your 1% is off by double digits. Good thing your work isn’t being graded for college credit.”
Some students ran into trouble before they were able to get to the submit button. They had difficulty copying and pasting their responses. On May 13, the College Board blames the problem on students using outdated browsers.
But students who had the correct browser also complained they ran into issues.
“My daughter was unable to submit her AP Physics Exam. She completed it in time and there was nothing wrong with our Wifi and her browser was up to date. She also tried to submit it using the copy and past [sic] method. She took a video of her clicking submit. She has to retake it?” one parent tweeted.
Since May 13, the third of the exams, the College Board has tweeted out troubleshooting tips for AP 2020 exams, and it is advising students to keep the tips nearby so they can solve any problems they may have.
But angry students and their allies aren’t taking that for an answer.
One response reads: “Hilarious, a list of 100 trouble shooting tips to try to go through while you’re panicking in 5 minutes. And, oh look, “IF ALL ELSE FAILS” there’s a makeup test!!”
And students are also upset at the College Board for tweeting out instructions on updating their camera settings to upload photos of their work only on May 12, the second day of the AP exams.
One student’s tweet reads: “I really think this should have been made clear WAY in advance!! Not after the exams have started.. all very confusing!”
Another student tweeted: “I haven’t seen this information until just now – AFTER taking my exam. I never changed any of my phone’s settings, but it still accepted my photo submissions. Does this mean I’ll need to retake the exam?”
Already, a petition calling on the College Board to let students re-submit their AP work has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures.
“My dear friend Natalie and I are two of thousands of AP students who weren’t able to submit our AP exams due to a malfunction in the College Board website,” the petition states. “We’ve worked hard all year to learn and earn some college credit so we can have a head start and make sure we can graduate college on time or early. We’ve studied hard for the last few weeks and were looking forward to earning some college credit today. Now we might have to retake our tests several weeks from now or lose our chance to get college credit. This would cut into the free time we’d been looking forward to enjoying with our families and friends after all our hard work.”
News & Content Manager
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.