The College Board Stinks


Image courtesy of America’s Promise

Emmett Gaffney, Editor in Chief

As students enter their junior and senior years of high school, they start to prepare for college by taking some AP courses or possibly an SAT (for now, at least). Both of these are administered by the infamous College Board. The College Board may seem innocuous, especially considering its unassuming “.org” top-level domain.

AP Classes

AP courses are almost necessary for admission into highly-ranked colleges and universities (I will get more into that later). But the course itself sucks. Instead of teaching the material and promoting learning, AP courses teach to the exam. From personal experience, I believe non-AP courses taught me more and made me want to walk into the classroom each day. AP courses, although (depending on the teacher) they can be interesting, are boring. They teach you x,y, and z. There are no class discussions or discourse. And if we are not exchanging ideas and beliefs, what are we really getting out of it?

The culmination of a year’s work in an AP class is the dreaded AP exam. They are typically a 3-4 hour test, consisting of a combination of multiple-choice problems, short answer questions, and sometimes an essay. Having taken two (and planning to take three more), I can confirm– they suck. For example, we will take the AP US History exam, which is designed to teach students to think as a historian would. The DBQ (document-based question) gives students several documents, of which they are tasked to analyze and formulate into an essay in 60 minutes. But that is exactly the problem– 60 minutes. Historians do not frantically analyze documents, try to get a gist of them, and figure out a spot to incorporate them into an essay. In reality, analyzing these documents takes time. As it should! But the exam forces students to do the opposite– and as a result, think like a historian would not. 

Upon completion of the exam, students have to wait months for their scores. For instance, I took my exams in early May and received my scores in late July. I understand there are thousands of kids taking these exams, but should it really take more than two months to grade each test (especially when most of the test is multiple choice)? Anyway, when I logged onto my AP account in July to see my score, I saw just that–and only that– my score. No breakdown, no test questions, no percentage of correct answers. As someone who did not earn 5’s on all my exams, it sure would have been nice to know where I went wrong.

Pay to Play

One of the many reasons the College Board gets so much heat is because of how much it costs to, for example, take an SAT or AP Course. Before the College Board eliminated the essay on the SAT, it cost $68 to take an exam. Now, without the essay, it will still ring you up $55. Also, let’s say you took the October SAT and are awaiting your scores. You do not know if you should register for the November test. Let’s say you decided not to register for the November exam. You get your scores back from the October test and realize you may not have done so good, so you decide to register for the November test. But because you signed up late, there is an additional $30 fee. Backtracking, let’s say you signed up for the November test anyway before the late registration. But you get your October scores back and did well! So you decide to cancel your November test. Not so fast! There is another $25 fee for cancellation and an extra $10 more if you do not meet the deadline. Are these fees really necessary?

But it gets worse. If you decide to take an AP course in high school, it costs you $96– on the low end. That figure applies to most AP courses, except for AP Seminar and AP Research. Those two aforementioned courses cost $144 to take each. But wait, there are more fees! If you place your order late or decide to cancel your exam, there is a $40 fee.

So let’s take a step back. Let’s say you take 3 SAT’s throughout your high school career, and maybe you sign up late for one. $55 x 3 = $165. $162 + $25 (late fee)= $190. And maybe you enroll in 3 AP courses, but sign up on time for each. $98 x 3= $294. $294 + $190 = $484. That is nearly $500– not an expense many families can incur, but an influx of cash the College Board is more than happy to acrue.

They Have A Monopoly on College Admissions

In the 2021 college admissions cycle, many schools went test-optional, meaning they will accept, but not require standardized test scores. And while it looks like that (or some form of it) is here to stay, many students will still take SATs and AP courses. Because of nearly every student’s reliance on the College Board, their monopoly only grows. If you want to get into more competitive schools, the SAT and AP courses– and exceptional performances on both (which leads to more money spent on exams and courses)– are effectively required. Sure, you could go test-optional to schools, but you are still likely going to take an SAT or two for kicks. And taking AP courses–and many of them– is a de-facto prerequisite for admissions into prestigious universities.

I hope reading this gave you some insight into my disdain for the College Board. It really does suck.