College Board refused to accept some AP exams submitted with iPhones

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The College Board didn’t accept some handwritten AP exam answers from iPhone users.
Many student who hand wrote answers to AP exams and tried to submit them through an iPhone found they couldn’t.
Photo: Startup Stock Photos

Some U.S. high school students couldn’t submit their Advanced Placement tests last week. And it’s all because the College Board doesn’t support HEIC, the image format the iPhone uses.

Fortunately, there’s now a workaround. But that didn’t save the kids who failed their AP tests because they use an iPhone.

A failure of College Board’s AP remote testing

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the College Board allowed students to take their Advanced Placement exams at home. For tests requiring a written essay, students had the option to handwrite their answers, then submit a picture of what they’d written.

However, The Verge reports that some students could not submit their answers from an iPhone. This means they failed the test.

The problem resulted from the iPhone storing images in HEIC format. But the College Board only accepts images in JPEG or PNG formats. Still, students were warned about this ahead of time.

The problem wasn’t widespread. The College Board told  LAist “our data show the vast majority of students successfully completed their exams, with less than 1% unable to submit their responses.”

The workaround

Going forward, students who take an AP test but don’t submit a response will be given a single-use email address they can use to send in an image of their essay in an alternate format.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t save the people who already failed the test because they tried to submit it in HEIC format. The AP exams are time-limited. “To protect the security and validity of exams, we are unable to except submissions from students who tested May 11-15. However, these students can feel confident that the email option will be in place for them during the make up exams,” said the College Board.

HEIC vs. JPG

Apple changed image formats in 2017 with the release of iOS 11. The switch happened because pictures in HEIC are roughly half the size of JPEGs, and of better quality.

While JPEG is very widely used, it was created in 1992. Image compression has gotten a lot better since then.