Test Prep

No Appeals for 2020 AP Exam Scores?

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I read your Ask the Dean answer about appealing AP scores, but that was from when multiple choice questions were on the test. This year, there were no multiple choice options, only free response-short answer questions. My son believes his test was not scored accurately. College Board has said only multiple choice questions can be disputed, but with no multiple choice this year, is there any way we can appeal AP scores?


You already have the bad news — students and their families cannot appeal AP exam scores this year. And the Dean's crystal ball — although murkier now than ever before — says that this won't change in spite of potential pressure from dissatisfied students and parents (See "Exception" below). But there's some good news, too. Admission committees realize that the 2020 AP exams were administered — and scored — under atypical (and perhaps even questionable) conditions. Thus, applicants who did well will still benefit, but the ones who didn't do so well won't be penalized at admission-decision time. The admission folks will be apt to overlook lower scores, realizing that these could be due to an inadequate process rather than to an inadequate student!

Spring 2020 AP test-takers who encountered a major technical snafu should feel free to explain it in the "Additional Information" section of their applications. But I don't recommend using this section to complain about an unexpected low score or a potential scoring problem. Ultimately, this could reflect poorly on the candidate. Instead, seniors who feel that their AP scores aren't up to snuff should simply not report them. While, in past years, admission officials might be suspicious when they spot a list of AP classes on an application but no (or fewer) AP scores, this year all bets are off. The Dean suspects that there will be a lot of AP students omitting exam results on their applications this fall. But those who do choose to report them should take comfort from knowing that the hot-so-hot ones will be viewed with a block of salt.

The students who may be hurt the most by 2020's irregular AP administration are those who had hoped to earn college credit but scored below the usual credit cutoff (typically a 4 or 5, depending on the institution and the academic department). Some colleges are going to be revisiting their AP credit policies due to the pandemic, but my best guess is that students who did not score as high as they anticipated will ultimately lose out. And they will have to add this to the long list of losses everywhere that must be blamed on COVID-19.

Exception: AP teachers will be able to see the actual AP exams of their students who received a score of 1 or 2. If the teacher then feels that the exam was improperly scored, the teacher can contact the College Board to request a review. These requests must come from teachers, so students who received a 1 or 2 and who suspect a scoring error should contact their teacher.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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