Digital Versus Paper AP Exams


Sarah Sevener, Reporter

There has been some discussion about the possibility of 7 AP Exams going digital this year, and for years to come at Spring Lake High School. Among these 7 exams are AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, and AP US History, three of the most popular AP classes at Spring Lake. 

So, why the push for digital? Some say it is an easier process, especially with the writing. One administrator from Wisconsin states, “Typing essays is easier for students than writing by hand…No paper exams [for me] to worry about or handle.” Students say: “It was smooth, the tools were easy to use/intuitive, and I loved that you could go back and forth between questions.” Yet, there are still so many questions left unanswered. Is the exam the same? What about timing? Can you go back to questions? 

The change to digital exams would severely affect my personal ability to perform on the test. Throughout the high school curriculum, students have grown accustomed to paper exams. In almost every one of my English classes, all annotations and marking has been done with paper and pencil. I fear that we would do our students a disservice by making this change so suddenly. 

I believe that the best plan of action is to keep AP exams on paper this year. I will not totally denounce digital AP exams, but I think it would be unfair to the current AP students to suddenly throw digital exams into the mix. A multi-year plan that encourages and incorporates more digital writing and annotations into English classes could be a great plan of action, getting students used to the digital network throughout all their years in high school, not just in the short span of 6 months. Having taken AP Language and Composition last year, I can say with certainty that the paper exam was the best choice for me. I was able to write down thoughts, organize, and underline to create the best essay that I could. For me, there is something about physically holding the exam that makes it easier to comprehend, and grasp. Using technology makes it feel out of control, and overwhelming to navigate. 

If the decision is made to go digital this year, I would hope that administration would allow students to voice their opinions, and have part in the decision making process. Better yet, an option of digital or paper for students would be ideal, if logistics permit. Implementing digital practice would need to commence soon, as to give students the proper amount of time to adjust. I think it would be detrimental to underestimate the effect that exam procedure has on a student’s score.