by Mark H. Sklarow, CEO, IECA

Starting next week and continuing through much of May, the College Board will be offering its AP tests, an important opportunity for students across the world to demonstrate mastery of subject matter from the advanced placement courses they have taken.

This year’s tests will have a significant difference. To ensure security at a time of online testing, all students—regardless of where they live—will be taking subject tests at the same moment.  So, consider this: as the first AP exam on Physics kicks off testing season, it will be 12:00 noon (ET), 7:00 p.m. in Turkey, 1:00 a.m. in Japan. What if a student is also taking the Government AP exam that same “day”? That will start at 4:00 p.m. (ET), 10:00 p.m. in Germany, and 2:00 a.m. in India. How can we possible consider it a “standardized test,” offered with fairness and equity when students in much of the world are asked to begin that test of mental acuity and knowledge in the wee hours of the morning? It is simply unfair.

But this is a siren call to all.

Both ACT and the College Board’s SAT have announced plans for online testing—most likely at home—in the coming months. We can learn from the AP exams that issues of validity and fairness have not yet been resolved. Availability of broadband, access to technology and quiet spaces remain unsolved and must be addressed. Already some colleges indicate an unwillingness to consider AP exam scores for this year and at least one, Claremont McKenna College, has indicated it will not consider at-home SAT or ACT scores in the coming year.

We hope these issues can be addressed by the testing companies soon, as student and parent anxiety is off the charts. And they must do better than the inequity next week, as students are asked to take a test in the middle of the night that could impact their college admission aspirations and affordability in significant ways.


  1. Thank you for addressing. I am happy to see that IECA is joining NACAC in speaking out about the inherent inequity in these tests.

  2. In the words of one of our students: “I studied the history of the world from 1200 CE to the present during an entire school year. Now I get to show what I learned in 45 minutes.” The College Board’s insensitivity to students’ emotional and behavioral needs is inexcusable. There is nothing standardized about this testing at all, when a student in Thailand takes a test at 3 am and a student in Chicago takes the test at 3 pm. As educational consultants, our intended focus is the welfare of the student. How reassuring it would be if this were the case for all of the entities involved in college admission.

  3. Thanks, Mark, for this initiative. In addition to the structural handicap for students around the world, we are equally concerned for the many students without access because they lack computers. Then there are countless others without privacy, preparation or proper place. Once again, the glass is half full for those who have a glass.

  4. I think that the College Board, in a time that is laden with uncertainty and uproar, tried to do its best with respect to this new AP administration. However, I do agree with you, Mark, about the timing: If I were a student taking a 4 PM exam here in New York, my counterpart in China would be taking the same exam at 4 AM! This was not well thought out.

    Perhaps, should the College Board ever be confronted with this issue in the future, it should host two administrations per day. Making up two markedly different questions should not prove to be that big a task. I think that the CB could make it easy enough to make the questions as different as possible, given the breadth of material in each AP test.

    Not consider at-home testing? How does that benefit CMC?

  5. Thanks Mark for the advocating academic fairness for international students when they choose the American education route.

    I would like to provide some viewpoints of mine and my colleagues, as an education consultants working exclusively with Chinese international students.

    If the test is not started at the same time, there will be unfairness due to potential problem leak.

    Contract cheating and collabrative cheating are growing problems for online protectored tests. Time-zone cheating is one of the mostly used techniques in SAT tests in the past. There is even a Thailand movie about this. Maybe many consultants and schools are not aware of, many commercial companies specialized in making profit in academic cheating.

    WholeRen has a “second chance” division to serve the international student who are under academic probation, low GPA and cheat consequences. From internal data, we have seen more contract cheating lately, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak. As new academic options are available, so do the commercial cheating tactics. Not many consultants are specialized in the academic integrity, I hope feedback from this side can contribut to the community as well.

    Like everyone else, CB has take extra efforts to offer AP online open book at home this time. Starting testing at the same time globally is one of the decisions they made. I just adviced my students to follow the rules, and get up at 3am. Since many of them are already taking online classes at mid-night anyway from their home in China. With new challanges, we all need to adjust and understand new problems.

    I’m not paid by CB to speak for them. It’s my point of view, to offer at the same time, will increase the vadility of the test, which is also academic fairness.

    Andrew Chen
    WholeRen Education

  6. Alan, I agree. In fact after a recent quote from me, concerning the issue of equity and access for home testing was in a NY Times article, I heard from one mother who told me their only internet access was using data on their daughter’s mobile phone. Imagine that young woman, already disadvantaged trying to take her SATs on a cell phone. How could that be fair in anyone’s book… and how does that instill a sense of reliability or validity in the cores that will come.

  7. These are all such valid points. In addition, one of the things that College Board and ACT always tout is the reliability and validity of their tests. How can they ensure validity with a totally unproven test?

  8. Thanks for the feedback, everyone. This is a terrific discussion. In regards to next week’s AP exams, several pointed to an easy solution that I have proposed before, at least in the short-run. CB COULD have offered two versions of each test: each offered 12 hours apart, ensuring every student could choose a daytime version. Others, like you Ann, point out that these exams have been greatly shortened. Is that OK? I don’t know, but until it has been tried, how can anyone assert the validity of the test.

    Validity is my concern, Alan S, regarding at-home testing. Typically, an exam company will have spent years ensuring that a new version of a test…and a dramatically different delivery system, would be tested to ensure results are consistent with what has been tested in the past, to assure the validity of the process and to guarantee equality. My fear is that the ACT and SAT are rushing too quickly without proper assurances. And that is my Claremont McKenna so rightly said that at-home tests can’t be used for admission because there is no assurance those tests are valid, reliable, cheating-free, and equal regardless of the location where a student tests (something I doubt can be achieved with at-home exams).

  9. Thanks Mark for this initiative, and advocating for the education fairness for the students around the world!

  10. Thanks Mark for these valuable insights. I believe that there are no easy solutions and each college will have to make their own choices as to whether or not to accept at-home test scores for admissions. — Jyoti Jain, Jain College Consulting

  11. Mark, thanks for addressing this. I understand getting the students around the world to take the AP exams at the same time is intended to prevent the leading of the test questions, but it is not a fair solution to those students who have to take the exams during wee hours of the day. In addition, CB leaves the burden (and anxiety) to the students and their families of functioning as test centers and administering the tests themselves, including securing a quiet space, the bandwidth of internet service, computer or mobile device. The plan is neither standardized in process nor equitable among global test-takers.

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