According to a report from The Verge, high school students across the United States are failing their Advanced Placement (AP) exams due to the College Board’s online testing portal not accepting photos captured in the default HEIC image format.
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Back in March, the College Board, the entity that creates the curricula and exams for AP courses, announced exams would be online rather than in-person since schools across the U.S. were being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this proved beneficial in many ways – most notably the online exam is only 45-minutes while the in-person exams run three hours – it seems the rollout is not without a few hiccups.
AP exams require long-form answers. With in-person testing, these answers are completed and turned in on paper. Online though, the College Board allows students to either type up and submit their responses or write them by hand and submit an image of the handwritten work as a JPG, JPEG or PNG file.
|A notification on the AP exam page of the College Board’s website that links to an explainer on how to properly submit images of written responses.|
The problem is, iOS devices and a few newer Samsung phones are set to capture the more storage-friendly HEIC files by default, not JPEGs. As a result, students are seeing a perpetual loading screen, which stays up until the 45-minute time limit of the exam is up. Once the time is up, a screen reading ‘We Did Not Receive Your Response’ pops up, confirming nothing was submitted.
|A graphic created and shared by the College Board showing students how to change the default image file format on their iOS devices.|
The Verge reports enough students at one Los Angeles high school encountered the issue that the school forwarded a message sent to it from the College Board explaining how to troubleshoot the issue to prevent image submissions from being denied. But that message, as well as the below tweet from the College Board explaining how to change the default capture image format on iOS devices, doesn’t help the students who have already taken their exams and were unable to submit their work to no fault of their own and, as a result, are being forced to re-study for a make-up exam.
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
In a statement to The Verge, the College Board says ‘less than 1 percent [of students were] unable to submit their responses,’ and notes ‘[It shares] the deep disappointment of students who were unable to submit responses.’
In addition to the explainer on how to change the default file format on iOS devices, the College Board has also opened up a backup email submission process that requires students who encounter the HEIC error to send their responses via a unique email address ‘immediately’ following the exam. This option isn’t retroactively available for the students who were unable to submit their responses the first time and have had to reschedule a makeup exam.
The Verge’s coverage details a number of anecdotes from high school students who have encountered this file format compatibility issue, so head on over for more information.