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Articles / Applying to College / Do COVID-19 Changes Mean International Students Will Take AP Exams in the Middle of the Night?

Do COVID-19 Changes Mean International Students Will Take AP Exams in the Middle of the Night?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 5, 2020
Do COVID-19 Changes Mean International Students Will Take AP Exams in the Middle of the Night?

Elizabeth French

I am a high school junior living in Korea, and I just saw the new AP schedule that went out. Based on that listing, I have multiple tests at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. in early May. We are scheduled to be back in school by then (no longer online school, but going to the actual school building), which means I will have to take an AP test at 3 a.m. on a school night, then go to school, then another AP test at 1 a.m., then go to school in the morning and so on. I will have six AP tests all done this way. This makes no sense -- is there a way to appeal any of this, or study strategies you can suggest? I lived in the US for six years and then moved to Korea, and I am just trying to get back to the US for college, and this will not help.


What you're asking is very reasonable, but unfortunately, we are suddenly living in crazy times, which means that some decisions seem unreasonable, or at least very rushed. And this is true of the revised AP exam schedule. Although your own school will be back in session soon, most AP test-takers will not be in school in May, so the switch to online, at-home testing was designed to accommodate the majority of students as well as possible, despite the inevitable flaws (and, for some like you, unfairness).

Just as you've noted, AP students in Asia will be expected to take their exams in the wee hours. Adam Ingersoll at Compass Education Group provided "The Dean" with a statement from the College Board that answers your question clearly, albeit with bad news, confirming that the testing times will not be amended to accommodate international students. The College Board said:

"We recognize that these testing times will not be convenient for students located in some parts of the world (including China, and other countries in East Asia). Those timings will mean some students will have to take exams at very early/ very late hours. In the limited time that we had to develop this at home testing solution, simultaneous testing is critical to ensuring test security and ultimately had to select times that would serve the largest number of students based on the survey results. We deeply regret the inconvenience that this may cause for some students and hope that families and schools will plan accordingly."

Perhaps you and any other students from your high school who are planning to take AP exams can talk to the administration about allowing you to skip all or part of the school days when your AP exams require that you stay up very late (or wake up far too early!). You can also look at the test schedule that you'll find here to see if any of the make-up times (near the bottom) are even slightly better for you than the standard times. If so, ask your school counselor about testing in the make-up slots.

In addition, because the exams are still more than a month away, check the AP updates regularly to see if the College Board succumbs to pressure to offer Asian students amended options.

I wish that "The Dean" could provide better news about your AP exam schedule, but do keep in mind that college admission officials will understand that all Asian AP testers were similarly penalized in the spring of 2020 and will evaluate them accordingly. Also remember that "coronavirus" seems almost synonymous with "frequent and often unexpected change." So do check that AP site listed above for updates, and good luck on your exams, whenever you take them.

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.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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