Accidentally Prompted

2020 tests patience, focus of students globally, College Board to test APUSH students on 2020 history


Though Generation Z is known to be very good with technology, teenage hackers have taken that stereotype to an even higher level in recent months. While other adolescents have attempted to hack into social media sites like Twitter, an unnamed teen has successfully broken into the College Board’s database and exposed the organization’s plan for the 2021 Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) exam. 

In an attempt to simplify her peers’ education in APUSH, anonymous Reddit user Dinosauces314 posted the document-based question (DBQ) prompts for the 2021 test. 

“I (17F) have a dad (45M) who works for the College Board,” Dinosauces314 posted on Reddit. “He told me yesterday that the material will only cover topics that occurred in 2020. Message for details, as I know there’s a lot of different events.” 

An interview request sent to Dinosauces314 did not receive a response.

For Bob Drumpf ’22, the news had mixed benefits. On one hand, he said the 37-minute long periods that he’s spent in APUSH are now a waste, as the current curriculum only covers events up to 2016.

“However, personally experiencing 2020 is a considerably better education than any in-class simulations we do,” Drumpf said.

Last year — on the AP European History exam — Drumpf studied extensively with materials provided by teachers such as past DBQs and the “Strive for a 5” textbook. This year, his study plan is simple: watch TikToks.

“Scrolling through Bryce Hall’s feed has been very helpful in helping me identify important cultural shifts,” Drumpf said. “I am having a hard time memorizing, though, when exactly lockdowns and social distancing started.”

In Drumpf’s other classes, he has heard rumors from classmates that AP Statistics will include word problems featuring pandemic scenarios and AP Language synthesis and open argument prompts will only be 2020 events.

On the administrative side, College Board officials said they were blindsided, but not surprised, by the news regarding the AP test leak. Since this move has caused students like Drumpf to become more proactive than ever by coming up with innovative study plans months in advance, College Board leaders are trying to find the silver lining. 

“It’s not ideal, but there are benefits to this. We want to give all students a chance to succeed,” Prevor Tacker, College Board’s vice president, said. “We all know online learning has been extremely limited this past semester, so we might as well let them know the question five months in advance.” 

Since many schools have turned to online learning, this year’s APUSH classes may benefit from the more focused curriculum that the hacker has caused. APUSH teachers at Stevenson High School are using this new information to change their lesson plans for second semester, although some were insulted by the notion that their students were not learning over Zoom.

“My students are so interested in not getting distracted that they always leave their microphones and cameras muted in order to ensure the highest quality of focus,” Adlai Ewing, an APUSH teacher at Stevenson, said. “That will only continue as we use second semester to focus solely on everything that has happened in 2020, from murder hornets to anti-maskers! There’s so much to cover, and I don’t know if one semester will be enough—we’ll have to spend half the semester on March alone.

All of these changes to the curriculum are courtesy of the unprecedented and fast response of the College Board in a situation that the organization has not faced before. While they could have made a new and unleaked version of the test before the planned May testing date, they have chosen not to due to the unique nature of this school year. 

“Honestly, we saw that this year’s APUSH test prompts were being passed around online. I just mysteriously keep getting kicked out of the Zoom call whenever someone brings it up in executive meetings, and that makes it hard to address the issue,” Tacker said.  It’s been a long and hard year, so the fact that a teenager released the questions early is just par for the course.”