About the 2020 AP Exams
The 2020 AP Exams were developed in response to school closures in the wake of covid-19 and in close consultation with higher ed faculty, as AP Exams are every year. Students’ work were scored by our network of college faculty and AP readers and reported on a 1–5 scale, where 3 and higher indicates preparedness for success on subsequent coursework in the discipline.
- Participation: More than 4.6 million AP Exams were started over ten days of testing, across 32 subjects. See more.
- Timing: Exams were given from May 11–22, makeup test dates were available for each subject from June 1–5, and the exception testing window was June 22- 30.
- Length: For most subjects, the exams were 45 minutes long, plus an additional 5 minutes for uploading.
- General Exam Format: We developed secure, online free-response exams for each course. Most exams consisted of one or two free-response questions, and each question was timed separately. Students wrote and submitted their responses within the allotted time for each question.
- Courses with Portfolio-Based Assessment: The Art and Design: 2D; Art and Design: 3D; Computer Science Principles; Drawing; Research; and Seminar courses continued to use the original through-course assessments and did not have a separate online exam.
- World Language & Culture Exams: Students completed two listening and speaking tasks (interpersonal and presentational communication-focused) consistent with free-response questions previous AP Exams.
To see what units of particular AP courses were the focus of 2020 exam questions, visit the AP Covid-19 Updates page. You can understand what content is covered in those units on AP Central. Select the course you’re interested in learning more about, and then choose Course and Exam Description.
For more complete AP Program and Participation for 2020, visit our research page.
Credit & Placement Recommendations
During the unprecedented events of 2020, the overwhelming majority of institutions we have spoken to have committed to honoring AP credit and placement policies already in place. In addition, many states and systems of higher education have also publicly committed to awarding credit or placement in 2020 based on their existing policies.
We always recommend that institutions publicly commit to honoring their AP credit and placement policies to reassure students that you value their achievement of college-level proficiency. This will make your institution’s credit options transparent to prospective incoming students and their families.
To that end we have developed materials you can use.
AP Exam Validity
As we do whenever there is a change to an AP Exam, we follow protocols and procedures central to standardized testing, conducting a standard-setting process. This is a major undertaking, one that we normally do not do every year, only when an exam changes. Given the changes to AP exams in 2020, we ran a standard-setting process for all AP Exams.
We also conducted analyses of past administrations of AP Exams, examining to what extent students’ performance a representative free-response questions correlate to success in subsequent courses in college. Students whose scores on the free-response questions most similar to those selected for the at-home AP Exam fall in the top three quartiles of scores earned, and, historically earn significantly higher first-year subject area grades than non-AP students.
AP Exam Security
The 2020 AP Exams were open book/open note. However, students were not allowed to consult with any other individuals during the testing period. For the small number of students who may try to gain an unfair advantage, we enacted a strict set of protocols to prevent and detect cheating. We have kept some of these protocols confidential to maximize their effectiveness. Protocols include:
- Developing exam questions that require students to demonstrate critical thinking and synthesis skills, as opposed to providing content that can be found in textbooks or online.
- Requiring student verification of their identity and confirmation that the work they submitted is their own.
- Use of a range of digital security tools, including plagiarism detection software and post-administration analytics, to protect the integrity of the exams.
- Providing AP teachers with copies of the work their students submit, enabling teachers to spot inconsistencies with students’ known work.
Students were able to use their approved accommodations for 2020 AP Exams. This year the way accommodations were provided may be different because the exams are shorter and will be taken online at home. As always, students could only use accommodations that they were approved for by the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office. More information is available online.
About the 2021 AP Courses & Exams
Unlike the unprecedented exam offering in 2020, the 2021 exams will return to covering the full content of each course. To help educators and students in hybrid/blended, in-person, online, or online learning environments, we are offering new, free, flexible online resources to support instruction year-round. For the 2020-21 school year, we are offering AP Daily, a series of on-demand, short videos AP teachers can assign to students, saving instruction and class time for focused discussion and collaboration. These courses are part of the AP Classroom Platform.