Isn't taking AP Exams hard enough already?

Dec. 6, 2021, 4:37 p.m. | By Joy Song | 2 years, 2 months ago

College Board's unusual policies add unnecessary stress to an already difficult process

Signing up for courses, which includes choosing from the various electives and determining which level to take, is very daunting. In an effort to add course rigor or potentially earn college credit, many students are taking an increasing number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, whose content is often difficult and time-consuming. Yet to earn college credit through APs, students need to score well on the annual AP exam for each class in May. College Board, the organization behind the AP program, was created to expand access to higher education. But by increasing exam fees and requiring early registration on top of the already stressful exam, the College Board is acting against its own goal.

Except for Applied Statistics, AP Microeconomics, and AP Physics: Electricity & Magnetism, College Board moved the registration deadline for AP exams to Nov. 15. Exams ordered after this deadline incur an additional $40 late fee. To ensure that Blair students are not subjected to these extra costs, AP Coordinator Leslie Blaha sets deadlines for Blazers earlier. "I tell [students] the deadline is November 5. Then I can spend the next 10 days trying to find the people who didn't register, registered incorrectly, didn't understand what they were doing when they registered, etc," Blaha said. 

College Board claims that early registration is for the students' benefit: students who pay and register for the exams earlier are more motivated to work hard because they know the test is coming. Blaha is confused by why students are registering in November. "I don't think College Board needs six months of notice to…mail us a test that they already created. Like if 40 kids take AP Biology vs. 20 kids, the test is already written. It's not like College Board has to put more effort into creating more exams," Blaha said.

Student stressed about AP exam costs and registration timeline. Photo courtesy of Angela Tu.

Rather than encourage students to study harder for their exams, the early registration typically puts unnecessary stress on students who are still unsure which exams they will be prepared for come May. "If the registration was in the spring, I would definitely have a better grasp on my preparedness," sophomore Leila Simons, who is planning to take 3 AP exams, said.

Not only is there a late fee for registration, but also a cancellation fee of $40. Although for the past two years, College Board offered full refunds due to COVID-19, the cancellation fee was reinstated for the 2022 exams. Thus, for any exam that gets cancelled or is unused, students only get a partial refund of $56 this year.

The cost of an exam, which has increased steadily in recent years, is currently $96. "I'm not sure how they calculate the cost. They're paying for mailing things, grading things, and a lot more. Somehow they come up with the price of $96," Blaha said.

The fee waiver for the exams, subsidized by Maryland state, MCPS, and College Board, make the cost much more manageable for some, but not all. "I can use the waiver fee to lower up the cost, but I still think it's really expensive for others," senior Qiuyu Huang, who is planning to take two AP exams, said.

Additionally, scoring well on an AP exam does not guarantee college credit. Some colleges allow students to earn credit from AP scores and save thousands of dollars, but most students have no clue which college they will attend until spring of their senior year or how much they may be able to save by taking the exams. "[AP exams] is good college prep, but you don't necessarily need to take the exam in order to get that college prep," Blaha said.

With high costs and dubious reasons for extremely early registration, the AP Program presents unnecessary barriers in students' hopes for a deeper understanding of a subject and the potential of earning college credit. The College Board should move AP registration to the spring and lower exam costs and additional fees to truly achieve its objective of expanding access to higher education.

Last updated: Dec. 6, 2021, 4:44 p.m.

Tags: College Board AP Tests

Joy Song. Hi! My name is Joy, and I'm a staff writer. Apart from writing for SCO, I enjoy reading and listening to music. More »

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