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Are Universities Changing How They Evaluate 2020 AP Scores?

Posted by Ashley Robinson | May 31, 2020 3:00:00 PM

Advanced Placement (AP)



The coronavirus global pandemic has forced the College Board to make lots of changes to their usual AP testing protocol and format for the 2020 exam cycle. Colleges and universities have taken notice of the changed conditions for AP testing this year, and many students are wondering how their chances of earning college credit through AP scores will be affected by these changes. 

In the article, we’ll provide a full overview of the current info surrounding how universities are handling AP scores during the COVID-19 pandemic. We give you a full run-down on why schools are reconsidering whether this year’s AP exams will count for full college course credit. We’ll also give you three tips for staying up-to-date on changes to schools’ AP score policies as you navigate these changes over the next few months. 

Let’s get started!



The 2020 AP Exams were administered online this year and in a shorter, open-book format. That's made some universities reconsider whether 2020 AP scores should earn students similar credit and placement as they have in past years. 


Current Status of AP Test Scores and College Credit

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are several things about AP exams that were different this year. The biggest change is that AP exams were administered online during spring and summer 2020. 

On top of that, the College Board made changes to accommodate students who couldn’t complete their AP courses through the end of the spring semester due to school closures. The College Board made AP exams open book and open note this year, rewriting the AP exams so that they only test students on course content that was covered through the month of March 2020, and they changed the exam format so that exam questions appeared in free response format only

But not everyone has been happy with changes. Some universities have expressed concern that the rigorousness and security of the new test taking conditions aren’t comparable to AP tests of previous years. These schools believe that students who score a 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams under the adapted conditions for 2020 aren’t necessarily demonstrating the same mastery of course material as students who earned similar scores in previous years. 

In other words, some schools don’t feel that the 2020 AP exams are rigorous enough — or test enough skills — as they have been in years past. 


Some Universities Are Reconsidering How They Award AP Credit

With these concerns in mind, some schools are considering changing their policies around how AP course credit and placement is determined.

An example of one school that is changing its AP score credit policy is Princeton University. Princeton’s Office of the Dean states

Some academic departments have changed their credit policies for Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered in May 2020 in response to changes in AP exam format and coverage necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis. Our primary concern is that students be placed appropriately for success in our sequenced courses, and so some language and science departments will require incoming students to take a Princeton test to confirm course placement and credit.

It isn’t clear yet if many other schools will follow Princeton’s lead by allowing individual academic departments to set their own course credit policies this year. If other schools do make similar changes to their AP credit policies, it’s important to understand that these changes aren’t meant to penalize students, but to ensure that students are placed in college courses that suit their knowledge and skill level


Other Universities Are Sticking With Current AP Credit Policies

On the other hand, there are also many universities that will maintain their normal policies concerning AP exam scores for incoming and admitted students this year. The College Board is making schools aware of its efforts to ensure that the AP exams are secure and fair to all students as well. Some measures the College Board is taking include: 

  • Designing the exams so that students can’t earn points for answers that can easily be found online or in a textbook
  • Holding each subject exam on the same day, at the same time, worldwide 
  • Using plagiarism software and analytics to detect cheating
  • Sharing copies of student exam responses with their teachers, who may be able to detect inconsistencies 

Universities that have already released statements that their AP exam course credit policies will remain consistent with previous years include the University of Arkansas, the University of California system, New York University, and Auburn University, among many others. These schools recognize that students are preparing for the AP exams under extremely challenging circumstances this year, and that the College Board is doing its best to maintain test taking integrity.

The College Board does not anticipate that schools will adopt “no credit for AP scores” policies for incoming college students this year, stating the following about awarding of credit at colleges and universities

We’re confident that the vast majority of higher education institutions will award credit and/or placement as they have in the past. We’ve spoken with admissions officers at hundreds of institutions across the United States who support our solution for this year’s AP Exams. We are also actively reaching out to universities outside the U.S. to ensure awareness of the unique context of this year’s AP test-at-home solution.

It’s important to keep in mind that every school will make its own decisions about how to handle AP credit this year, so you should be proactive about seeking out updates on AP course credit policies at your schools of choice over the next several weeks. 




3 Steps to Take to Learn How Your School Is Handling AP Scores

The most important thing you can do to get accurate information about earning course credit for your AP scores is to reach out and do your research. Follow the three steps below to find out what to expect from universities where AP credit is concerned this year.


#1: Check University Admissions Websites

So far, a lot of universities have stated that they intend to award course credit for AP scores based on the same standards as in previous years. But most of these schools aren’t releasing specific announcements about this decision and are instead choosing to incorporate this info into some type of “COVID-19 policies” or “coronavirus updates” webpage. 

Unfortunately, this means you might have to do a little digging to find the info you need about AP exam score policies. The first place to go if you’re searching for info on AP exam credit is any special COVID-19 updates page on a school admissions website. If you can’t find information there, your prospective department may have more information on their page as well. 


#2: Email Admissions With Questions 

If you have a hard time finding what you’re looking for online, email university admissions. 

You can briefly state that you’re a prospective student who is seeking information about how the university is handling course credit for AP exam scores this year due to COVID-19 changes, and someone will get back to you with the specifics of that school’s policy. This is also a great step to take if you find that the online statement a school has provided about AP exam course credit is confusing or not detailed enough. 


#3: Scope Social Media

Many universities use their social media feeds to push out updates before they make the changes official on their website. Make sure you’re following your prospective schools’ Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds. There’s a good chance that coronavirus updates will get posted there first! 

You should also follow the College Board’s social media feeds, too. While they likely won’t post updates that relate to your school, they may link you to helpful articles and resources regarding AP exam scores and credit policies. 



What’s Next? 

If you haven’t already, make sure you’re up on how AP credit works at colleges. This article will teach you everything you need to know about the normal college AP credit process.

If you’re a senior this year, you’re probably starting to apply for colleges. Learn more about how your AP scores factor into the college admissions process here.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has also affected the ways that college admissions (and admissions decisions!) work this year. Here’s an expert explanation of how coronavirus is affecting the college application process. 


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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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