Students forced to retake AP exams over iPhone photo format mix-up

iPhone 11 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Some High school students are being made to retake their AP exams.
  • That's because they tried to submit their written work using photos taken on iPhone.
  • College Board doesn't support the default HEIC format used by iPhone.

Some High school students are being made to retake AP exams following a mix-up caused by the iPhone's default photo format, HEIC.

As reported by The Verge:

Nick Bryner, a high school senior in Los Angeles, had just completed his AP English Literature and Composition test last week. But when he snapped a photo of a written answer with his iPhone and attempted to upload it to the testing portal, it stopped responding.The website got stuck on the loading screen until Bryner's time ran out. Bryner failed the test. He's retaking it in a few weeks.Bryner is among the many high school students around the country who completed Advanced Placement tests online last week but were unable to submit them at the end. The culprit: image formats.

The College Board's FAQ states that students can submit photos of written exam work in JPG, JPEG, or PNG format. Notably, this does not include the default format for photos on iOS, HEIC. According to Bryner, "many of his classmates also tried to submit iPhone photos" to no avail.

An email was sent out to students earlier this week regarding problems submitting information, instructing students to change their iPhone's camera settings accordingly. This will of course come as no comfort to students who have already completed (or thought they had completed) their exams. One student further noted that advice tweeted by The College Board on May 12 to this effect was sent out "just a few minutes before" his test was supposed to begin, noting that "no one taking the AP Physics test would have been able to see it because we were already logged into the test." Not to mention that not all kids have Twitter. Confusingly, some students who were able to successfully upload files in the demo were then unable to do so in the real exam:

Senior Dave Spencer took a demo test before his Calculus AB exam to make sure he understood the process for uploading photos. He Airdropped an iPhone image of his responses to his Mac and tried to convert it by renaming the HEIC file to PNG. Changing a file's extension does not guarantee that it will be converted, but Spencer was still able to submit the demo test with no problem.Spencer used the same process on the real exam and thought it went through, but he received an email the next day saying the files were corrupted and that he needed to retake the test. The College Board's tweet went out just a few hours before Spencer's scheduled exam; he doesn't have a Twitter account and didn't see it.

The only solace is that moving forward, students will be able to submit their tests by email if they have issues, which should alleviate the problem. For many students this is not good enough however, and a petition demanding that the College Board allow students to resubmit work has garnered over 23,000 signatures.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9