AP Exam Changes: New Deadlines, Penalties Mean New Pros and Cons for Taking the Tests

AP exam changes books

The College Board announced some significant AP exam changes effective August 2019, and they’re not minor to your planning or your wallet. For students wondering if they should take the exams at all, it changes why you should (or shouldn’t) register, or maybe even take AP classes.

What are the changes? Students enrolled in AP classes will be required to register for the spring AP exams no later than November 15th. So instead of signing up for your AP exams in March, you’ll be signing up for them in November. The cost of the exam is unchanged ($94) but if you register for the exam after November 15th, you’ll get charged a $40 “late fee.” The changes will start with the 2019-2020 school year.

Some counselors have expressed concern that these changes don’t do much to help the student, and could be detrimental. Most students take the exams for the express reason of gaining college credit for good AP exam scores. For students who haven’t started the college applications, they won’t be able to coordinate against their future college’s AP credits.

What the Professionals Think

In an email on a discussion group of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Scott White, interim guidance director at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J. explained:

Asking us to sign students up so early and charging exorbitant fees for anyone who did not do so is usury. The process benefits no one but the College Board and happens for one and only one reason: they have a monopoly and are acting like it.

We need to take back what serves students and schools, not corporations and businesses. The new College Board AP sign-up policy pushes kids too hard and too soon to make decisions. It creates further financial burdens on students and schools which help no one, not one student, not one school.

Pros and Cons of the AP Exams

With the new deadline in mind, should you take AP exams at all? There are a couple of options for you, but they start with answering one bigger question: Yes, you should take AP classes. AP classes are great additions to your transcript and top colleges want you to take the highest level class you can in your school, and do well in it.

But are you looking to take AP exams solely for future college credit, there are actually two options. If you take an AP class with the plan to get a 4 or 5 on the exam and gain college credit, great. Study hard, look at old AP exams, and prepare! And be sure and sign up before November 15th so you don’t get that extra fee. But if you’re weighing your junior or senior year schedule, and you’re a self-motivator with a good GPA, talk to your guidance counselor about dual enrollment.

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Dual enrollment permits high school students to take college credits (usually through a local community college). You’ll be enrolled at both your high school and community college simultaneously. Importantly, the classes you take can fulfill high school requirements and get college credit immediately. Most community colleges  Also, you can tailor your classes a little more. For example, if you’re a history buff, and you’re considering AP History, you could take a Civil War specific community college course instead.

Most importantly, talk to your guidance counselor about your options in your area. They’ll be well versed in online community college options, financial obligations, and what best suits your plans.

2019 Seniors

But back to current seniors! Should you take the AP exams this March? It depends on the colleges you’re looking at, or perhaps already committed to. Check their AP schedules to see what a 4 or 5 could get you (usually it will fulfill a required core class). Sometimes even a 3 can get you some credit. And then give yourself a gut check: Are you ready and capable of doing well on these tests? Then yes, it’s worth the expense and time. You’ll appreciate it when you’re not sitting in Freshman English at 8am next fall.

And, if you’re not happy with the AP exam changes, you can sign an online petition asking the College Board to reconsider.

Best of luck to graduating seniors, and rising juniors and sophomores!

Some other sources to check out:

The College Board is changing sign-up rules for AP test. Critics say it’s an undue burden on students. (Washington Post)

AP exam changes: Helpful for test prep, or more money for the College Board?

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