The AP exams of May 2020 seem like a distant dream, so here’s a quick recap: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, College Board decided to offer AP exams online. Most AP exams consisted of only 1 or 2 Free Response Questions, greatly reducing the length of the AP exams to 45 minutes. In other words, the May 2020 AP exams were anything but typical.
It’s important to keep this context in mind when looking at the 2020 AP Exam scores and percents. Below we’ve compiled a few charts comparing the number of test takers, percent of passing rates, and number of 5s scored for 2019 and 2020 AP Humanities, Math, and Science Exams. These charts prioritize common AP exams in our region and do not include every exam offered.
In looking at the previous two charts, notice that for each AP exam the total number of students taking the modified online 2020 AP exam was less than the total number of students taking the same exams in 2019. This trend, of course, makes sense as many students opted not to take the exams due to technological and content concerns (since many AP classes across the country were interrupted with transitions to online learning).
Though the total number of students taking the tests reduced from 2019 to 2020, the percent of students passing (receiving a 3 or higher) increased in the majority of AP courses. Some increases were quite significant, like in AP Lit jumping from a 49.7% to 60.10% passing rate. Given the context—the elimination of the multiple choice section—the increase in the passing rate, especially in writing-heavy courses like AP Lit or AP Lang, makes perfect sense. Additionally, many students who were less confident in the course content decided against taking the AP exam, which may have added to the increase in the passing rate.
In the AP Humanities courses, more students scored 5s on the 2020 exams than the 2019 exams. However, in the AP Math & Science courses, there were mixed results. While, in courses like AP Bio and AP Environmental Science, the number of students receiving 5s increased, the opposite was true for courses such as AP Chemistry and AP Statistics, in which less students received 5s on the 2020 exams than the previous year. The contrast between AP Humanities and AP Math & Science statistics may be indicative of the exam format favoring writing intensive courses.
Main Takeaway: As students prepare for the 2021 AP Exams, it might be misleading to use the statistics from 2020’s nontypical testing period to judge levels of difficulty on the upcoming tests, especially if the 2021 AP exams return to their full length.
Whatever the case, Pivot Tutors is here to help with any AP course or AP exam needs. Reach out today!