Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle HEIC images

Students are failing AP tests because the College Board can’t handle HEIC images

Gash Bryner, a highschool senior in Los Angeles, had exact carried out his AP English Literature and Composition check out remaining week. However when he snapped {a photograph} of a written decision together with his iPhone and tried to add it to the trying out portal, it stopped responding.

The net web page bought caught on the loading masks till Bryner’s time ran out. Bryner failed the check out. He’s retaking it in a pair of weeks.

Bryner is amongst the numerous highschool faculty college students across the nation who carried out Stepped ahead Placement assessments on-line remaining week however had been unable to submit them on the give up. The wrongdoer: characterize codecs.

A screenshot of the AP testing portal informing a student that they weren’t able to submit their responses.

Screenshot: Faculty Board

For the uninitiated: AP checks require longform options. Faculty college students can both fashion their response or add {a photograph} of handwritten work. Faculty college students who resolve the latter choice can attain in convey a JPG, JPEG, or PNG construction based mostly absolutely completely on the College Board’s coronavirus FAQ.

Nonetheless the trying out portal doesn’t give a choose to the default construction on iOS gadgets and some more moderen Android telephones, HEIC recordsdata. HEIC recordsdata are smaller than JPEGs and different codecs, thus permitting you to retailer highly effective further photos on an iPhone. Usually, easiest Apple (and, further now not too way back, Samsung) use the HEIC construction — most different websites and platforms don’t give a choose to it. Even present Silicon Valley-based absolutely largely firms and merchandise, reminiscent of Slack, don’t deal with HEICs the an identical method as customary JPEGs.

Bryner says lots of his classmates moreover tried to submit iPhone photos and skilled the an identical say. The problem modified into as soon as so whole that his faculty’s AP program forwarded an e mail from the Faculty Board to varsity college students on Sunday alongside facet tidbits of recommendation to terminate submission errors.

An email to high school students from the College Board with advice for submitting exam responses.

“What’s devastating is that hundreds of college college students now hold an extra three weeks of tense learning for retakes,” Bryner acknowledged.

In an announcement emailed to The Verge, the Faculty Board acknowledged that “the overwhelming majority of college college students effectively carried out their checks” within the first few days of on-line trying out, “with now not as quite a bit as 1 p.c unable to submit their responses.” The agency moreover eminent that “We half the deep disappointment of college college students who had been unable to submit responses.”

The e-mail Bryner bought doesn’t stage to the HEIC construction, although it does hyperlink to the Faculty Board’s online page, which instructs faculty college students with iPhones to alternate their digital camera settings in order that photos preserve as JPEGs in want to HEICs. The agency moreover linked to that knowledge in a tweet early remaining week.

Whereas it’s worthwhile to to submit {a photograph} of a handwritten AP Examination decision from an iPhone or iPad, develop specific that that to alternate your digital camera settings so your photos are saved as JPEGs, now not HEICs. Shuffle to Settings > Digicam > Codecs > Resolve “Most Applicable.”

Additional dinky print:

— The Faculty Board (@CollegeBoard) Also can 12, 2020

The recommendation, alternatively, modified into as soon as too gradual for a great deal of school college students. One senior, who requested to remain anonymous to hold away from repercussions from faculty, acknowledged that the Faculty Board’s tweet went out exact a fast time sooner than his Physics C check out started. “Nobody taking the AP Physics check out would have been able to witness it on fable of we had been already logged into the check out,” he acknowledged.

Senior Dave Spencer took a demo check out sooner than his Calculus AB examination to develop specific that that he understood the method for importing photos. He Airdropped an iPhone characterize of his responses to his Mac and tried to seriously change it by renaming the HEIC file to PNG. Altering a file’s extension would now not assure that this may seemingly be transformed, however Spencer modified into as soon as composed able to submit the demo check out with no say.

Spencer stale the an identical course of on the exact examination and thought it went by way of, however he bought an e mail the next day asserting the recordsdata had been corrupted and that he compulsory to retake the check out. The Faculty Board’s tweet went out exact a pair of hours sooner than Spencer’s scheduled examination; he doesn’t hold a Twitter fable and didn’t look it.

“Proper right here is mainly unacceptable, as some adolescence may maybe presumably now not hold Twitter love me,” Spencer acknowledged in a textual content message. “That nuance modified into as soon as now not addressed anyplace within the demo.”

Everly Kai, a senior in British Columbia, had the an identical say with Pc Science A remaining week — she tried to rename the file to JPEG and purchased the an identical e mail a pair of hours after submitting her check out.

“It modified into as soon as actually fairly devastating,” Kai acknowledged in a textual content. “I studied almost the whole lot of the outdated week and actually really feel I did reasonably efficiently, easiest to treasure it modified into as soon as for nothing and I’d want to battle by way of the overall tense course of once more.”

Bryner thinks the clarification isn’t ample, even for school college students who’re taking the check out later. “Most faculty college students are doubtlessly going to proceed to induce into this,” he acknowledged. Bryner doesn’t assume the agency should hold anticipated him and his classmates to soar by way of so many hoops. “To flip the swap from HEIC to JPEG is buried in settings, and one thing that nobody is indignant by going into the check out,” he acknowledged.

Even faculty college students who knew in regards to the HEIC say hold had peril figuring out how one can repair it, particularly within the excessive-stress trying out ambiance. Sean S., a junior from Chicago who took Calculus AB, stale OneDrive to port {a photograph} to his House home windows desktop from his iPhone, then tried to seriously change the file with House home windows Describe. On account of the {photograph}’s dimension, the conversion took over 5 minutes. Then, sooner than the JPEG had absolutely submitted, his time ran out. (Sean requested to be recognized easiest by his first title and remaining preliminary on fable of his folks didn’t want his title within the information.)

Luckily, it sounds love faculty college students will hold further recourse at some point. The Faculty Board is now permitting have a look at-takers who hold factors submitting their assessments to e mail them as a various — iPhones convert HEICs to JPEGs robotically after they’re related to emails within the Mail app. Whereas you fail to submit, you’ll straight get a notification and a diversified e mail deal with to make the most of. This characteristic is easiest available for future checks, alternatively — it acquired’t abet Bryner and others who failed their assessments remaining week.

Tens of hundreds of college college students are nerve-racking that the Faculty Board attain further. Following technical factors alongside together with her hold check out remaining week, Los Angeles senior Eliana Sisman created a petition calling on the agency to allow her and fellow faculty college students to resubmit their outdated work. The petition has composed over 23,000 signatures.

“I thank the Faculty Board for organising a re-submission channel for school college students taking APs this week,” Sisman acknowledged in an announcement to The Verge. “I urge them to be stunning to varsity college students who’ve already taken the APs and may’t submit them. Many faculty college students will seemingly be within the safety energy or working at summer time season jobs by June 1st and bought’t be able to resolve the make-up check out.”

She added, “If the school board does this, they are going to develop it specific to everybody that they’re a responsible and caring neighborhood establishment.”

Correction Can also 20th, 5: 20PM ET: Eliana Sisman’s assertion first and main be taught “I thank the Faculty Board for organising a re-submission channel for school college students taking APs this 12 months.” After publication, Sisman contacted The Verge to declare she’d made a mistake and he or she supposed “week,” in want to “12 months.” We hold up thus far the textual content.

Correction Can also 20th, 10: 05PM ET: An earlier model of this textual content acknowledged that the AP English Literature and Composition check out is hours lengthy, when this 12 months’s on-line model of the check out is easiest 50 minutes lengthy. We regret the error.


  1. Wow, that would be incredibly devastating if you had to take it over again. not everyone is able to devote weeks of their lives to these things.

  2. This is the latest in a string of incidents where critical software systems, facing new pressure due to the pandemic, are catastrophically failing their users.
    I think what's happened in the past is that most public-facing software systems either a) were not really critical (because people had the alternative of doing things in-person), or b) (as in the case of all the ancient COBOL systems underpinning the US gov) had been made reliable over the years through sheer brute force as opposed to principled engineering. But in the latter case, as we saw with New Jersey's unemployment system, that "reliability" was fragile and contingent on the current state of affairs, and had no hope of withstanding a sudden shift in usage patterns.

    Now we have various organizations – governmental and otherwise – hastily setting up online versions of essential services and it seems like every single one of them breaks on arrival.

    We need some sort of standard for software engineering quality. I don't think this is an academic question anymore. Real people's lives are being impacted every day now by shoddy software, and with the current crisis they often have no alternative. Software that you or I could probably have executed better, but that the people who were hired to do it either a) couldn't, or b) didn't bother. It's nearly impossible for non-technical decision makers in these orgs to evaluate the quality of the systems they've hired people to build. We need quality assurance at an institutional level.

    If not governmental, maybe an organization around this could be made by developers themselves. Not the "certified for $technology" certifications we have now, but a certification of fundamental software engineering skills and principles. A certification you can lose if you do something colossally irresponsible. At the end of the day, this dilution of quality is having a negative impact on our job field, so it concerns all of us. It leads to technical debt, micro-management, excessively rigid deadlines and requirements, which we all have to deal with. All of these are either symptoms of or coping mechanisms for management's inability to evaluate engineering quality.

  3. I thought iOS was supposed to convert HEIC images to JPEG automatically behind-the-scenes in any file transfer situation where HEIC isn't supported. The article itself even says:

    > iPhones convert HEICs to JPEGs automatically when they’re attached to emails in the Mail app

    I'm just curious technically why the same didn't happen with the testing portal? If you have a webpage that accepts image uploads, is iOS Safari not smart enough to do the same conversion?

    Or was the portal programmed badly or in a non-standard way that that couldn't happen? Or is there a way to do it that the developers ignored?

    Just curious for the technical details of who's more to blame here — Apple not providing enough backwards compatibility, or the testing portal being designed poorly.

    Because blaming students for not following obscure instructions to change their phone's overall configuration is not the right path. A national testing portal ought to support the default image format taken by the world's most popular phone, period.

  4. > The College Board is now allowing test-takers who have issues submitting their tests to email them instead

    Crazy there wasn’t an email to reach out teachers before. Any exam I passed with a computer or online component always had a way to contact the prof in case something goes wrong.


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