As a family we’ve been isolated from the community feeling that test takers get when everyone experiences the pressure at the same time. This round of AP tests was our first time. I found myself having similar experiences to other homeschooling moms and my son found himself having similar experiences to kids on Reddit.

There’s a whole world of kids helping each other with AP tests on Reddit, and then making jokes about being unprepared. The AP commentary is breathtakingly smart and clever. We spent a lot of time laughing about the memes.

Then, in the middle of the two-week test period, the College Board got themselves a Reddit account and posted a reminder to the students that they made a contractual agreement to not divulge any questions after the test. Which is a farce. Because you can find full blog posts analyzing the tests just days after they have been taken.

The first responses were predictable to everyone except, apparently, the College Board:

Suck my dick college board

The answer to 1 is A

AP Gov had a frq on the 28th amendment, come at me

The AP gov test is a joke – it’ll just take longer if you cheat

You could also tell it was six months after a lot of AP test takers had been accepted to college:

My AP number is 8273 192 8 cancel my scores CB

Then of course someone made a fake account and started responding to everyone’s comments. But then the kids got serious:

A capitalist company should not be able to have such a huge stake in our education

I was struck by the deep truth of that comment. So I did some research.

When the College Board is funding the research, the results all revolve around the evidence that kids who take AP tests do better in college. But this has nothing to do with kids who score highly. It’s actually about kids who took the difficult classes in high school and then showed up to the test and try. It reminds me of the research that shows kids who apply to Ivy League schools do as well as kids who get in.

And of course rich kids do better at AP tests, so now there’s been a push to help lower-income kids take the test too. Lower-income students require a teacher who is incredibly gifted and also one who has manic energy and persistence. But for the most part, this push to make AP tests more than just a rich-kid sport has meant getting lots more kids to take the test and fail, which means more money for the College Board.

Admission departments at colleges make decisions based on a combination of  SAT or ACT scores, difficulty of course load, and GPA. So for most kids, getting high scores on APs doesn’t help with getting into college.

What colleges want to see is you took the most challenging courses available to you, and you did well. So in a rich-kid private school they don’t need APs because the schools only have hard classes, and why on earth would you teach to the test if you don’t have to? And in many schools with poor kids there are no AP classes to enroll in so colleges don’t penalize the kids for not taking APs.

So then who should actually take AP tests? Kids who don’t go to school. Like homeschoolers. Because those kids need to demonstrate they had a demanding curriculum in order to prove they can handle college-level work.

Which is why we are steeped in AP biology this week, but in between flashcards on mitosis we marvel over the kid who wrote: I failed AP stats, my meme got 1.4k upvotes!