Pali English Department Pilots Online AP Testing Sessions

As Pali increasingly relies on digital educational resources, the English department made the first move toward integrating in-person, online Advanced Placement (AP) exams in early May.  

Online AP exams are not entirely new to Pali, as they were used in the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 2023 is the first year that the College Board made online AP exams available for students to take at school. While other subjects, such as AP European History, Computer Science Principles and United States History, are also offered in the digital format, the English department was Pali’s only department that opted to use online exams this year.

English Department chair and AP English Language and Composition teacher Randy Tenan-Snow led the push to move the exams online.

“[The College Board] feels that students are comfortable on their devices, that it will lower anxiety and stress, especially since that’s the way [we have practiced this year],” Tenan-Snow said. “[English teachers] rightfully have concerns, and they’re concerned about students. But, I think that we want to take the chance to offer this to all of you.”

The format of the online AP English exams are fundamentally similar to their physical counterparts, with only a few minor changes. Both exams include a 45- to 55-minute multiple choice section and a roughly two-hour time block to write three essays. Online, students were able to move back and forth between questions, and they typed their essays instead of writing them by hand. 

After the AP exams, AP English Literature teacher Noah Hundley said that he received largely positive feedback from students, primarily on the format of the exam.

“Generally, students seem to think that the formatting for the multiple choice [was] easier to look through, saving them a lot of time and makes things much more efficient,” Hundley said. “Being able to type was much better and much quicker. And as a result, they felt they were able to write more compelling essays or at least more in-depth essays, which I think was a good benefit.”

However, several students did face technical difficulties during the exam, ranging in extremity. 

AP English Literature student Hannah Kalt, a senior, said that she had to retake the exam on paper after her chromebook unexpectedly shut off during the exam.

“I took the multiple choice and then during the break my computer went into sleep mode and then it kicked me out of the exam,” Kalt explained. “So my experience was not that positive because I ended up having to retake it.” 

“There were a handful of students who had issues with specific laptops and who had to retake the exam due to technical difficulties, but from my understanding, it was not that many, somewhere between 10 and 21,” Hundley said.

However, these complications were not universal. 

Many students believed that typing allowed them to write and revise their essays more quickly, which some see as crucial in a strictly-timed exam.

“I would have probably done way worse if I had to flip back and forth I think manually with paper, or erase parts of writing, again the speed thing was really good [since] I could finish and review [my essays],” said AP English Language student Olivia Weir, a junior.

“I think it does vary from subject to subject, [as in] how important it is to make the change [to online AP exams],” Hundley said. “But environmentally, it is better. I think student-wise, especially for writing-intensive exams, it’s more practical. It seems smoother for the multiple choice [segment of the] exam even. So I think there are a lot of benefits to doing it. I think it will only get smoother from here.”