Students across the US have been failing their Advanced Placement (AP) exams this month, but the issue isn’t a lack of knowledge… it’s photography. Apparently, the College Board testing portal where answers are submitted won’t accept the default iPhone photo format.
According to a report by The Verge, ‘thousands’ of students will need to re-take their AP exams after they tried to submit their long-form answers using an iPhone or other device that defaults to the more efficient (but less widely supported) HEIC image format.
Because of the pandemic, students are taking their tests online instead of in-person. Since AP tests require long-form written answer, participants can either type answers in digitally, or submit photos of hand-written responses—photos that must be submitted as either JPGs, JPEGs, or PNGs.
The issue is that most iPhones now capture photos, by default, in the smaller HEIC format. As a result, when these students try to submit their answers through the testing portal, the page freezes, their time eventually runs out, and they’re told that they will need to request a makeup exam because “we did not receive your responses.”
The College Board—the organization that administers Advanced Placement tests—is aware of the problem, and has taken to Twitter and its own AP FAQ page to warn students.
“If you want to submit a photo of a handwritten AP Exam answer from an iPhone or iPad, make sure to change your camera settings so your photos are saved as JPEGs, not HEICs,” reads a tweet published May 12th. “Go to Settings > Camera > Formats > Select ‘Most Compatible.’”
Students who fail to heed this advice will accidentally fail the test, extending their stress and study period for several more weeks until they can take the makeup test and (hopefully) submit their answers in an acceptable format. Who would have thought college credit might someday be dependent on shooting JPEG…
If you want to submit a photo of a handwritten AP Exam answer from an iPhone or iPad, make sure to change your camera settings so your photos are saved as JPEGs, not HEICs. Go to Settings > Camera > Formats > Select “Most Compatible.”
— The College Board (@CollegeBoard) May 12, 2020
The Verge spoke to several students who fell victim to this “glitch” on the College Board’s website. Some didn’t see the above Tweet, others don’t even have Twitter. One student even took a Demo test to ensure he was prepared, but when he took the real test, the PNGs he submitted were not accepted because they had been converted improperly.
And the students featured in The Verge article are clearly not alone. A Change.org petition calling on the College Board to allow re-submissions has accrued nearly 25,000 signatures.
Fortunately, the College Board is paying attention, and future test takers who run into this issue will get a second chance to send their photos over email if their original submission fails for some reason. But for students who have already failed due to this upload error—less than 1%, according to the College Board—it doesn’t seem they’ll be allowed to re-submit their original work. Their only option is the makeup test.
Image credits: Header photo by Jason Leung, CC0