The start of the year has been a turbulent one for students waiting on May 2019 AP exam scores. During the week of August 19, the ASL administration received word from the College Board that 298 exams had been lost. While parts of certain exams had been recovered, all AP Macroeconomics, AP Statistics and AP English Language and Composition exams were thought to have been lost completely.
However, on August 30, ASL was informed that one box of AP exams had been located, and then on September 3, it was found to contain 229 exams. At the moment, all AP Art History, Calculus, English Language, Human Geography, Italian and Macroeconomics exams have been found, while all AP Statistics exams and all exams taken during the 3rd week of testing, a total of 69 exams, are still missing. Students whose exams have just been found will receive a score within one week.
In Mid-July, a number of AP exam scores that ASL expected to receive showed up as a code 96, the generic code for in process, and the ASL administration reached out to the College Board. They received word that week two and three AP scores had been delayed but were assured that they were not lost. The College Board claimed it had been a result of severe thunderstorms in the middle of the U.S. that had delayed the shipping of the exams for grading.
After a week passed, ASL started emailing the College Board regularly asking for updates but were told only that the College Board had until September 2 to release scores. Head of School Robin Appleby said that the week before school started, ASL then received the vague information that “exams had gone missing in transit or processing.”
For Appleby, it was difficult to tell whether the College Board meant the exams had never arrived or that they had arrived and then in their processing, which involves shipping them back out for grading, they had gone missing. “I have never been able to get clarity about that,” she said.
It is confirmed that all exams did leave ASL correctly. Head of College Counselling Anne Richardson explained that “there are a number of steps that happen between the time [the exams] leave the steps of Waverly to getting to the people who will score them … there are multiple places where things could have gone haywire.”
Regarding the 229 exams that have just been found, the College Board said that the box was delayed by UPS and had not been delivered to them until now. However, Appleby said that according to ASL records UPS said the exams had been delivered so “it appears UPS didn’t deliver them when they said they did.”
Appleby believes that these exams were somehow delayed by UPS and not the result of storms and said that she will continue looking into it.
On the first day of school, all students affected were formally informed about the incident and received individualised letters from the College Board detailing the status of their exams. The College Board had managed to salvage 50% of certain exams and calculated a projected score based on that. Students had been given the option to cancel scores, use their projected score if applicable, or retake the exam. All students affected will receive a full reimbursement for the cost of the exam. For the students whose exams have just been located, if their projected score differs from their actual score the College Board will report the higher of the two.
When she was first informed of the incident, Richardson described feeling “aghast”, and in a state of disbelief. “You go through a moment of ‘how could this happen?’,” she said. “Then my focus turned to ‘how are we going to support the students?’”
“AP Calculus BC was the exam I had actually worked the hardest for. I had gone every day after school and every single weekend to study for the exam. It was hard to know that all the work that you did was almost worthless,” Laura Debeer (’20) said.
Academic Advising and College Counselling is committed to informing all universities about the incident and review sessions will be offered to students wishing to retake exams. For most affected students, both ASL and the College Board have sent specific letters explains the situation to each university’s admissions office, providing mock AP results and projected scores where applicable. “The way that we have approached this is dealing with each individual student and providing a nuanced response to that particular student’s situation,” Richardson said.
In response to calls to use affected students’ grades in AP classes or mock exams to provide a real AP score, Richardson stressed that this would not be possible. “Every high school is different. What is a mock AP score of four here might be a mock AP score of a five somewhere else. The College Board is very consistent about trying to make sure that an AP score is that same statistic wherever it is,” she said.
Laura De Beer (’20), initially lost her AP Calculus BC score, and was frustrated because she had been particularly stressed for the exam. “That was the exam I had actually worked the hardest for. I had gone every day after school and every single weekend to study for the exam,” she said. “ It was hard to know that all the work that you did was almost worthless.”
De Beer found that there was even a mixup with the College Board letter, receiving her twins sister’s score report instead of her own in an envelope addressed to her. “When I got my letter with my name and I opened it it was addressed to my sister,” she said. “I could have seen her score and sometimes we don’t share all of that and it might have been weird.”
For students applying to U.K. universities, the loss was even more detrimental as AP scores are the central component to applications from U.S. high schools. Maya Ajami (’20) was “in shock” when she received word that both her AP Macroeconomics and AP French exams had been lost. “When I found out they had lost this test that I had literally put months of hard work into I was in kind of in disbelief. It seemed like a joke. How could they have lost this test?” she said. “ It was as if they don’t care about the students … it felt like a very unprofessional mistake.”
For current ASL alumnus with conditional offer, those based on AP exam results, to U.K. universities the incident was even more concerning. Although the finding of many exams means this is no longer the case, Richardson initially believed that it would be “possible” for some students’ offers of admission to be impacted.
McKayla Hyman (’20) received word on September 4 that her previously missing AP Macroeconomics and AP English exams had been found. Although she is annoyed that there was unnecessary stress placed on students she is “very relieved” to not have to retake the exams. “School is very stressful and I wouldn’t have had as much time to study so I am glad all of the effort that I put in at the end of last year didn’t go to waste,” she said.
However, for students like Yaniv Regev (’20), whose AP Statistics exam still has not been found, the situation continues to be an upsetting one. Regev currently feels, “sad and frustrated but also very hurt. I put trust in the system and I worked really hard making sure I was prepared for the test and losing it is just a slap in the face.”
Regev took matters into his own hands, directly emailing the College Board to explain his disappointment with both the loss and the retakes being provided. “It’s unreasonable for them to expect us to do as well as we did because it’s been four months since the last AP and a lot of us forgot a lot of the information. For me specifically [Statistics] requires a lot of memorization,” he said. “For them to expect us to re-study, re-remember and re-practice especially in this time of year is [unrealistic].”
Similarly, although Ajami’s AP Macroeconomics exam has been located, her French exam is still missing and she plans on retaking it. Despite feeling relieved, she is still “quite annoyed about the French because, as I’m now starting to do my applications for the U.K., I just don’t have enough exams. I was relying on these scores,” she said.
Ajami believes that the College Board is “getting off very easy” and seems indifferent to the time and energy that students put in. “Since they are the only provider of these tests they seem to be taking advantage of their position. They are putting it all on the students while it’s their mistake,” she said. “There is no one to blame but them and the students have to pay the price which is totally unfair.”
Richardson emphasized that the situation is currently very “fluid” and expects more updates shortly. She remains hopeful that more exams will be found but is determined to help all affected students in the meantime. Communication is underway surrounding retakes for students who still need them and scores will be received within four weeks to assure that students applying early to college can send them.
Despite many exams being found, Appleby has found the situation “very very frustrating” and has made it clear to the College Board that they must review their processes to ensure this isn’t repeated. “You feel a little bit powerless. In my role I’m used to wanting to fix things for people and I haven’t been able to step in and fix this. I’ve had to work with other agencies,” she said. “But I have been really persistent with the College Board.”
Although Richardson is thankful for the help the College Board has provided her in assisting individual students, she hopes they understand the extent of their error. “This has been one of the most difficult situations I have ever had to deal with,” she said. “Looking long term I hope there are some changes at the College Board so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Photo used with permission from Wikimedia Commons