Logistical Issues Occurring During the AP Spanish Exam Held At Stuyvesant

The AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam had many technical difficulties which caused many issues during the test and scheduling conflicts with other exams.

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By David Paul

The Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish Language and Culture exam, which took place on May 10, has become a topic of concern among students due to various technical difficulties encountered during the testing process. There were issues with the listening and speaking sections of the exam, which caused the exam to be delayed for over an hour. As a result, many students expressed worry regarding their performance in the two sections. The delay also caused some students to have to postpone exams that coincided with that same afternoon.

The AP Spanish Language and Culture exam, offered by the College Board, differs from many other AP exams in its inclusion of audio text questions and spoken responses. This unique structure requires students to demonstrate their language proficiency through listening comprehension and verbal communication skills. Technology plays a vital role in the exam, from playing the audio for the listening portion to announcing prompts and recording students for the speaking section.

During the listening section of the exam, students experienced technological difficulties, specifically issues regarding audio quality. Only a few speakers were provided in the sixth-floor gym, which caused students seated farther from the speakers to have trouble hearing the questions. Junior Eshaal Ubaid, seated at the back of the gym, struggled to hear the audio clearly. “It felt like most of the gym couldn't hear the audio,” she said.

The speaking portion of the exam was even more problematic for students, who struggled with using their headphones. This technical issue, combined with the ambient noise in the room, raised concerns about the accurate scoring of students’ responses. “For the speaking portion, there was a bigger mess because half of the headphones weren’t working,” Ubaid said.

The headphone issue affected a significant number of students. Junior Brandon Kim similarly encountered issues with his headset during the exam. “My headset wasn’t working properly, making it difficult to concentrate, especially with the presence of a large number of people in the library,” Kim said.

There were also a wide number of computer problems in the rooms. “None of the computers were working,” junior Sumama Haque said. “When the technician guy asked who [was] having a technical issue, more than half of the class raised their hands.”

The auditory or oral portion of the exam, typically scheduled to take 18 minutes, lasted for over an hour. The exam itself took over five hours. This delay had adverse effects on students’ performance, as well as their ability to concentrate. Junior Axel Riess expressed how the extended exam duration led to difficulty in maintaining focus. “We were all fatigued, no one had eaten in like five hours, so it was kind of hard to focus,” Riess said. 

AP Spanish teacher Frida Ambia shared secondhand information from students and Assistant Principal of Organization Dr. Haber regarding what went wrong during the exam. “The simulated conversation was very difficult due to the fact that there was a program update at the time of the test,” Ambia said in an e-mail interview. “This update changed certain things and students were not able to hear the recorded prompts from the headphones, as they were supposed to.”

In addition to the individual impact on students, the extension of the exam caused scheduling conflicts for students who had planned to take other exams on the same day. The AP Biology exam was scheduled for the afternoon of May 10, so students who were scheduled to take both exams missed the AP Biology exam and were forced to schedule a makeup exam. “We spent like an hour trying to figure out what to do, where to go,” Ubaid said. “We did end up getting a retake, but it was very difficult to schedule with the school because they said they weren’t offering [retakes] this year.”

Nonetheless, the College Board has taken action to solve these scheduling conflicts. “Dr. Haber informed me a few days ago that the College Board has approved a retake for students who had issues. They have been e-mailed,” Ambia said.

Looking toward the future, students suggest improvements to prevent potential audio-related challenges in future administrations, such as pre-testing the audio equipment before the exam day. “[Administration should make] sure that all the technical aspects work already beforehand, and [bring] in more experienced proctors,” Kim said.