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AP Comp Sigh: The Latest on Technical Difficulties and Remote AP Tests

UPDATE: New Back-up Protocol Introduced for Students Who Experience Tech Issues (5/18/20)


In a post on their website yesterday, College Board announced a back-up submission process for AP testers who encounter errors when attempting to submit their responses using the primary method. If the initial upload fails to go through, students will be prompted to resubmit their responses via email using a unique address that is provided for them on the error page. This option is unfortunately not available retroactively for students who experienced errors during last week’s testing; instead, those students will still need to request to retake the exam on the make-up date, as will any future testers who are unable to resubmit their responses successfully via email.

This development does raise the question of why this system couldn’t have been put in place last week for the start of testing, as the use of email has been a reality since the 1970s. I’m not here to judge, though, just to report the news. Be sure to tune in next week when College Board gives up entirely and announces that students will now be permitted to tweet their exam responses instead.

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ORIGINAL POST (5/14/20)

The first week of remote AP testing is almost in the books, and it will come as a surprise to just about nobody that a number of students have complained of technical issues during the process of submitting their responses to the test questions, in many cases resulting in an inability to upload answers at all. This is extremely frustrating for the students who have prepared rigorously all year for these tests – and even for the students who followed in the footsteps of my high school self and… didn’t do that.

Unfortunately, the presence of some technical glitches isn’t terribly surprising: it was always going to be a tough ask for College Board to put together a foolproof system that would allow tens of thousands of students to take the tests remotely on just a few weeks’ notice. That will come as no comfort to students who are now faced with the prospect of a make-up test, however. In this post, we’ll take a quick look at the issues that have been reported during the exams, College Board’s response, and what you can do to avoid tech problems on test day.

What’s going on?

Basically, people can’t upload their responses to the exam questions, which it turns out is problematic when you’re, you know, taking an exam. There have been reports of blank screens, error notifications after pressing ‘Submit’, and problems copy-pasting answers into the text field on CB’s site. In some cases, students have even reported submitting a response to one of the exam questions successfully but then being unable to do so for the second question.

How can I prevent this from happening to me?

College Board recently created a troubleshooting page for students to consult prior to beginning their tests and in the event that they encounter issues during the testing process. According to CB, the best preemptive action you can take is to update your browser to the latest version. From their Twitter account:

While more than 99% of students successfully submitted their AP Exam responses yesterday, some who didn’t told us they had trouble cutting and pasting their responses. We took a closer look and found that outdated browsers were a primary cause of these challenges.

Leaving aside how much you trust remarkably convenient statistics that are pulled out of thin air like a magician’s rabbit, it’s absolutely worth taking the time to update your browser before starting the test, and CB provides instructions for doing so on the page linked above. If you’re unsure of whether your browser is running the most recent version, follow CB’s instructions just to be safe – if you’re already current, the installer will simply tell you that and stop the installation.

What if I have issues anyway?

We’re crossing our fingers that everything goes smoothly for you. If it doesn’t, though, College Board is offering make-up test dates in June. Take a breath, fill out this form, and then take a few days off to decompress and binge some trashy TV. If you have any specific questions, you can also call CB’s Customer Service department at 866-756-7346 (domestic) or +1-212-713-7789 (international).

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