We know you have a lot of questions about how AP Exams will work this year. On this page, find answers to some of the most common questions we get from students, parents, and educators.
2021 Testing Options
Yes. Schools can choose the exam administration options that work best for them—paper and pencil exams administered at school, digital exams administered at school, digital exams taken at home, or a mix—provided the school meets all requirements for each option.
In most cases, no. Schools indicate the reasons for later testing in AP Registration and Ordering. If they choose "Social distancing requirements" or "School closing: election, national holiday, or natural disaster," no late-testing fee will be assessed.
No. Schools can choose whichever window(s) meet their needs.
No. Schools can choose whichever window(s) meet their needs.
We’ll be updating students and parents about the new exam schedule and testing options. However, these communications will direct students to their schools for information about how exams will be given locally. Schools are responsible for determining which of the AP testing dates and modes are best suited for their unique needs this year. Students cannot independently opt to stay home for at-home digital AP testing. Given the interruptions and other challenges students face when testing at home, AP coordinators must approve any needs for at-home digital AP testing, and the school is responsible for ensuring that students have the technical support they may need to configure their individual computers for secure, at-home digital testing.
No. By March 12, your AP coordinator needs to ensure that all students who plan to test are included in the student roster in AP Registration and Ordering. Schools then have until April 1 to indicate any paper and pencil exams for Administrations 1-3 in AP Registration and Ordering. A student can be assigned to a digital exam until 7 calendar days before the exam, if circumstances change unexpectedly. And there are final deadlines in May to move students to a paper and pencil exam during Administration 2 or 3 if something unexpected requires you to do so.
Note: If you know now that you’re NOT testing in Administration 1, we recommend assigning students to later test dates by March 12, so you don’t receive Administration 1 paper and pencil exam materials. Your AP coordinator will be able to do this in AP Registration and Ordering, beginning in early March.
See Updating Your Exam Order for information about how and when to assign students to later testing dates, if needed.
In March 2020, colleges as well as high schools closed suddenly, and most were unprepared to complete their coursework through remote learning. Accordingly, the May 2020 exams covered a scope similar to the amount of content colleges covered before ending the semester early. However, this year, since most colleges are covering the full content in their courses, they expect the same of AP courses. The 2021 AP Exams must cover the full course content so that students are accurately placed into higher-level courses where they will succeed when they arrive at college. To students, the colleges they enter, and society at large, AP Exam scores must continue to accurately indicate whether millions of students have completed the college course material and should thus be exempted from learning it in college.
Digital AP Exams
No. Digital AP Exams will be the same length as traditional paper and pencil AP Exams and include both multiple-choice and free-response questions (as always, AP Computer Science Principles remains a multiple-choice-only exam and AP Seminar remains a free-response-only exam).
No. Students will need their College Board username and password to access their exams via the digital testing application.
Yes. On digital exams, students must answer each question before moving on to the next question. Once a question is answered, students cannot go back to that question.
This feature is designed to protect the integrity of the exam for all students. Once a student decides to move on from a question, whether or not they’ve answered it, they will not be able to revisit it.
No. But just like the sections on paper and pencil exams, sections on digital exams are timed. Students should be mindful to manage how much time they spend on each question so that they finish within the time allotted for the section. Proctors will not provide time warnings on digital exams. The clock within the digital testing application will flash a warning when 5 minutes remain in the time allotted for the section. Note: Students can hide and unhide the clock at any point during the exam until there are 5 minutes left in a section, at which time the clock will turn red and remain visible.
Not for the same exam. Once a student completes exam setup on a device, that device can’t be shared with another student (for any AP Exam), until the first student completes testing. Another student may then use that device for a subsequent exam.
Students should use their own device to test. However, if this isn't possible, students in the same house can set up and take exams on the same device. If students in the same house are testing in a similar time frame (on the same day or within the same 1-3 day period), they should avoid checking the Remember Me box and also exit the application completely. Students should also double check their log in information and identity when signing in, to ensure they are able to take the correct exam.
No. At this time, digital AP Exams can only be taken on laptop and desktop computers (Mac, Windows, or school-managed Chromebook). We’re working closely with Apple and are confident iPad will be a fully-supported device going forward.
Beginning April 8, students can install the digital testing app and do digital practice. Ideally, this should be done on their testing computer, so they can get an early check that their technology will work on exam day. However, if they won't have access to their testing computer for some time, they can install the app and practice on any supported computer. Best practice is for students to practice only when they have enough time to finish. The exam setup step for the student’s actual exam, however, MUST be completed on the computer that will be used for testing, 1-3 days before the exam date.
Yes, makeup exams in subjects with digital exams will be available after Administration 3.
No. For those subjects, schools should plan to test during Administration 1 or 2, leaving Administration 3 available for makeup exams, if needed.
Students can try to find another school at which to test.
Most students taking world language exams and music theory exams aren’t seniors this year, so they have the option to take these exams next year instead.
However, if the student is a senior, or doesn’t want to wait to take the world language or music theory exam next year, they can cancel their AP Exam at no charge and:
- Take a CLEP exam for college credit, available for French, German, and Spanish.
- Take their college’s own placement exam.
The world language exams require translation to and from written forms of the language, which a student with a smartphone can do by holding a translation app up to the computer screen. Accordingly, there is no way to administer exams at home that assess reading and writing of another language. Last year, colleges were willing to accept an abbreviated exam that only assessed speaking skills, but this year, their preference, understandably, is that if a student can’t take an AP Exam that measures reading and writing, and not just speaking, the student should take their own college’s placement exam when they arrive on campus. Similarly, the AP Music Theory Exam requires sight-singing without the aid of a device such as a metronome or a musical instrument, which can’t be enforced in a non-proctored setting.
The exams were designed to be as similar as possible and assess the same course content. However, there are differences related to the testing format and exam security. For example, because it’s not feasible to have students draw graphs and figures online this year, students will be asked to answer questions about provided graphs and figures. View a summary of all 2021 AP Exam formats for further details. Synchronous start times and restrictions on going back to previous questions are also key differences from paper and pencil exams, but important to help ensure that students don’t gain unfair advantages during testing.
Yes. Digital exams will be accessible to students with disabilities who are approved for testing accommodations. Students approved for braille accommodations will be able to test using assistive technology, and braille testing options will be available for students who are unable to test using the digital exams.
No. The digital AP Exam will not activate a computer microphone or record audio at any time on exam day.
Unfortunately, no. In order to preserve opportunities for students to test digitally in the impacted time zones, synchronous worldwide start times are a necessary part of our security protocols for at-home testing. We hope the opportunities to test, as well as multiple testing dates, offset the unusual testing times for some students.
Students who do not wish to test digitally should consider taking paper and pencil exams in person if they have the option to safely do so. We are encouraged that many schools in the impacted time zones are supportive of in-person testing based on results from a recent College Board survey.
Beginning on April 22, AP coordinators and teachers will have access to a digital exam readiness dashboard where they can track students’ progress through the required readiness steps and exam-taking.
Administering Digital AP Exams in School
They’re very similar, but not exactly the same. Proctors for in-school digital exams will be required to monitor exam takers and make sure they don’t help one another or consult prohibited resources. Another key difference is that proctors don’t control the timing of the exam or provide timing warnings to students. Information about proctoring is available in the Digital Testing Guide. Exam day proctor instructions will be added to the Digital Testing Guide on April 8.
It’s possible, but not recommended. Exam subjects have different timings, so in a mixed room, students will reach the break and the end of the exam at different times. This could be disruptive. It’s likely that the exam day proctor instructions will have specific reminders for some subjects, which could be challenging to deliver to a mixed room.
Digital exams taken at home are not proctored. Students will check in to the exam 30 minutes before the start time and then follow all on-screen directions before the start time, and then all necessary directions are provided on-screen in the app.
No. We understand that students testing at home may have access to devices or resources that aren’t permitted in in-school exam administrations. This is unavoidable during these extreme circumstances, and the exam has been designed to be taken securely at home. The exam questions can’t be answered with internet searches, textbooks, notes, study guides, or similar material. The exams also have security features to combat collaboration, accessing unauthorized aids, or attempting to have someone else test for a student. However, schools administering secure exams in their buildings must continue to enforce exam administration procedures that help protect the integrity of the exam.
Paper and Pencil Exams
AP sends an email to the AP coordinator when their exams have shipped. That email provides tracking information so coordinators can check exact status of the shipment. An email is also sent when the exam shipment has been delivered.
No. The exam fees are unchanged since they were first announced.
Yes. Any state-provided subsidies apply to digital exams just as they do to paper and pencil exams.