AP exams: 10 tips & takeaways as online, at-home testing begins

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This year’s AP exams have kicked off like never before. Over the past two days, hundreds of thousands of students have logged on from phones, tablets, and computers to participate in online, at-home testing for the very first time. While many students’ exams have gone smoothly, at least 1% of test-takers—thousands of students—have faced technical issues that prevented them from submitting their responses.

Here are the biggest tips and takeaways you can keep in mind to help avoid potential issues if you still have AP exams coming up.

1. Update your browser in advance. After the second day of testing, the College Board shared that outdated browsers have been a primary cause of issues for students attempting to copy and paste their responses. Make sure you’re using the most up-to-date version of your browser.

2. If you plan to use an iPhone to take pictures of your work, adjust your settings. Some students have had a hard time uploading “high efficiency” images (HEIC format). Before your test begins, change the following settings:

  • Turn off Live Photos. Open up your Camera app, and tap the yellow "Live" icon to turn it off.
  • Turn off HEIC format. Go to Settings > Camera > Formats, and select "Most Compatible."

Today, the College Board also released more comprehensive information about photo submissions and other common tech issues, so you can click here for additional details.

Note: even though the College Board’s interactive demo allowed students to upload HEIC files, you may run into issues doing so on the real exam.

3. Turn off Grammarly. After the second day of exams, the College Board tech team found that “the exam experience is inconsistent with Grammarly enabled.” To be safe, disable any Grammarly extensions you normally use.

4. Give yourself at least 5 minutes to submit each response. Some students have reported slow upload speeds or have needed to make multiple attempts. If your work is in the process of uploading but hasn’t finished when the timer hits 0, your response will not be scored.

5. Attach PDFs as text files, not as photos. When attaching a PDF, make sure to select the “Text” option rather than the “Photo” option.

6. If you forget to write your AP ID or initials at the top of each page, do not request a make-up. Your work can be scored even without that information, although the College Board has said this information is helpful to include.

7. If you’ve already requested a make-up exam, you can’t go back. Before submitting your make-up request, confirm you really need to. For example, some students requested make-up exams before seeing the clarification about AP IDs above. They were told make-up requests cannot be withdrawn, so they must move forward with the requested make-up exam regardless.

8. Your first response on a two-question test will be scored only if it’s submitted before the first question’s timer expires. If you have issues submitting a response to the first question, you can’t simply submit it as part of your response to the second question. Some students have tried submitting both responses together at the end of the exam, but the College Board has confirmed that those students will not receive credit for the first response. If you’re certain your first response didn’t go through, you can stop testing and request a make-up exam.

9. But if you’re not 100% sure your first response uploaded successfully, finish the exam to be safe. At the end of the exam, you should see a “Congratulations” message confirming both responses were submitted. If one or both of your responses did not go through, you should see a “We Did Not Receive Your Response(s)” page instead. If that’s the case, you’ll need to request a make-up exam within 48 hours.

10. Have a back-up plan. It’s a good idea to use the interactive demo to practice multiple submission methods. That way, if your first submission attempt fails, you can try another method, such as copying and pasting instead of attaching a file, or trying to upload a different file type. 

Remember, if anything goes wrong during your exam, take a moment to breathe and reset. Remind yourself that you have a plan for addressing problems. Starting May 18, The College Board will accept submissions by email if you have an issue, for details see here

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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