School is back in session from Spring Break and local students have received news on the status of advanced placement testing, which has been up in the air since the start of the pandemic.

Like their millions of peers in Advanced Placement classes across the country, local Santa Monica high-schoolers were hard at work preparing for the upcoming tests that will dictate if they will receive college credit and possibly save thousands of dollars on tuition.

As a scorer of the tests for a few years now, Santa Monica High School English Teacher Chon Lee was expecting to take another trip similar to last year’s, when he headed to Salt Lake City to score AP Literature essays alongside thousands of other teachers.

But the ways of the past are no more as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to CollegeBoard officials, meaning Lee and Samohi students will have to make do with a number of changes to the AP testing format this year.

“The tests are still going to happen and they’ll still be accepted by colleges as they would any other year,” Lee said, “but it’s going to be at home now.”

In normal years, most of the Advanced Placement tests feature a multiple choice section and essays that must be completed within a certain time frame.

AP Literature students usually have 2 hours to complete three essays and the multiple choice section, Lee said, “but this year, all APs are all online, include no multiple choice, and have only free response questions. So, literature students will have one essay that they will take when they log into the secure portal and (College Board) said they will have 45 minutes to write and submit.”

Physics and United States Government and Politics will be the first tests administered on Monday, May 11, when testing kicks off, according to the latest update from the College Board website. The exams, which will also include math calculation work for some subjects, will continue to be held until Friday, May 22.

To help young scholars prepare, College Board has provided students and teachers with access to on-demand video lessons that aim to teach the requirements for the courses that will be scored in 2020.

College Board will also provide anti plagiarism tools — kind of like — to prevent cheating, according to Lee. “But they also said it’s going to be open book and open note.”

So when AP literature students go to write the short fiction essays, they’ll be able to pull up the synopsis of the book, “but is that going to help them really write a better essay,” Lee said. “And then there’s the time factor so I don’t know how much time students will have to be able to cheat.”

Lee added it’s impossible to guarantee there won’t be any cheating on this year’s exam but College Board has said they have a variety of anti-plagiarism tools in place, “so it seems secure to me and I think people shouldn’t worry.”

Tests are expected to be scored in the first two weeks of June like usual, but that’s tentative, according to Lee.

“I think that will be more discussed soon when they tell us more about what they’re asking of us when scoring,” he said. “After all, this will be brand new for all of us so I don’t know if anybody has a firm grasp of what exactly it’s going to look like.”

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