By Kallie Hoffman
Here is a question that you will not find on any SAT or ACT test: what reward will you receive after months of listening in class, religiously studying one’s notes, agonizing over weekly multiple choice tests and in-class essays, and jamming a year’s worth of course material into a week of review? The answer: the opportunity to take an AP examination.
There are now almost forty AP classes offered nationwide, and for many students enrolled in these highly challenging courses, the administrative process can trip you up as easily as the subjects and information you are expected to know. Think about this fairly common situation. It is the day of the AP exam, and upon arriving at the test site you are immediately engulfed in a sea of endless chatter, students talking at a speed and decibel level you would expect to find at a hip-hop concert in the city. Nerves have taken over, so none of the students even stop to take note of the commotion. You are anxious and frankly a bit overwhelmed, but you know that once you find the desk with your name on top, there will be a sense of relief (and some confidence that you will not throw up last night’s lasagna). You eventually will settle in and down, and once your mind catches up with your heart rate, you will have a fairly good chance of being able to validate your intelligence. Yet what if the administrative process creates a greater challenge than Newton’s law of physics? What if every other student in the room has found a seat except for you? Imagine pacing up and down the room, panic on your face, hands in a sweat, the obvious loser in a cruel game of musical chairs. A teacher approaches and you hope for mercy or to be let in on the joke, but instead, he softly says, “I am sorry, but you never signed up to take this exam.” These words do not make sense and you wonder if this is a dream, if maybe you are Tom Cruise shooting a scene from Risky Business. You are certain there is a mistake, and this will all be funny in twenty years when you recount it for your children. Yet it turns out to be neither a movie nor a mistake. In fact, while you dutifully filled out the registration forms months in advance of the exam, submitted a signed check from your parent or guardian, and delivered the package personally to school officials, there is no record of the application. The papers were apparently lost—you will not be sitting in the student section at the Ohio State-Michigan game next November.
In order to mitigate the risk of encountering the “horrors” described above, the College Board decided to create online AP registration. Students now have the option to complete the required form from any computer with internet access, a process that can be started and finished in a matter of minutes. You will receive a prompt if you fail to provide all the information, and it is recommended that both student and parent review the filing to ensure that there are no mistakes. This is relatively simple, though you do run the risk that once you ask for help, mom or dad will ask you to clean your room. Once the form is completed, all that remains is to pay the $95 examination fee (by credit card online) and print out the pdf confirming the registration has been submitted. It could not be an easier process.
Sophomore Ali Lehman has not had any prior experience with AP exams, but she was impressed with the “ease and simplicity of registration.” There is no need to manually fill out forms and transport them to school, especially not in our age of innovation and technology. The system is quick and efficient and all information is maintained in one place, so while the dog can eat your homework, he will not be able to eat your AP forms.
Senior Dana Zamat was overjoyed with the College Board’s new system, stating, “I am already extremely stressed to take the test on the day of the exam, but at least I know that there is not going to be any concern about the paperwork.” The result is that Dana and other students will be able to focus all energy on the substance of the exam, positioning them to receive the best score possible. Online registration not only benefits the student population, but it also relieves some of the burdens from school administrators. Less time with unnecessary paperwork translates to more time attending to the needs of students and teachers, so the efficiencies are distributed to several different parties at Byram Hills. Everybody wins, and students might even end up with a clean room.
AP examinations are arguably some of the most intense and draining tests that students will have to take over the course of their high school experience. At Byram Hills, we are fortunate to be surrounded by excellent teachers who are available to guide students through the course material and prepare them to perform at a high level on the day of the exam. While preparation is critical, students will still inevitably battle stress and the competitive pressures that come with any AP exam. There is no way around this discomfort—it goes with the territory—but the process should not add to a student’s distress. All forms and paperwork can be filed electronically months before the test date, and one should not have to worry about finding an empty desk in May. Online registration eliminates these risks and makes the process simple and close to foolproof. The system is easy and immediate, creating a record that can instantly be verified if there is any problem on the day of the test. In the end, AP exams are similar to trips to the dentist: it is unpleasant, but you have to do it. The online registration process is a scholastic form of Novocain; it may still hurt, but it does numb the pain.