|This article is part of the|
Advanced Placement series.
|General exam structure • Awards|
The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a curriculum in the United States sponsored by the College Board which offers standardized courses to high school students that are generally recognized to be equivalent to undergraduate courses in college. Participating colleges grant credit to students who obtained high enough scores on the exams to qualify.
According to the Good Schools Guide International, it is "usually much more rigorous than the general course offerings. Advanced Placement classes are graded differently than other classes offered." The most taken AP exam in 2008 was AP United States History with 346,641 students, and the least taken was AP Italian Language and Culture with 1,930 students.
After World War II, the Ford Foundation created a fund that supported committees studying education. The first study was conducted by three prep schools—the Lawrenceville School, Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy—and three universities—Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University. In 1952 they issued the report General Education in School and College: A Committee Report which recommended allowing high school seniors to study college level material and to take achievement exams that allowed them to attain college credit for this work. The second committee, the Committee on Admission with Advanced Standing, developed and implemented the plan to choose a curriculum. A pilot program was run in 1952 which covered eleven disciplines.
The College Board, a non-profit organization based in New York City, has run the AP program since 1955. From 1965 to 1989, Harlan Hanson was the director of the Advanced Placement Program. It develops and maintains guidelines for the teaching of higher level courses in various subject areas. In addition, it supports teachers of AP courses, and supports universities. These activities are funded through fees charged to students taking AP Exams.
In 2006, over one million students took over two million Advanced Placement examinations. Many high schools in the United States offer AP courses, though the College Board allows any student to take any examination, regardless of participation in its respective course. Therefore, home-schooled students and students from schools that do not offer AP courses have an equal opportunity to take the examination.
As of the 2011 testing season, exams cost $87 each, though the cost may be subsidized by local or state programs. Financial aid is available for students who qualify for it; the exam reduction is $22 per exam from College Board plus an additional $8 rebate per fee-reduced exam from the school. There may be further reductions depending on the state. Out of the $87, $8 goes directly to the school to pay for the administration of the test, which some schools will reduce to lower the cost to the student.
On April 3, 2008, the College Board announced that four AP courses – French Literature, Latin Literature, Computer Science AB, and Italian Language and Culture – will be discontinued after the 2008–2009 school year due to lack of funding.
AP tests are scored on a 5–4–3–2–1 numeric scale (5 is the highest and 1 is the lowest).
Grading the AP exam is a long and complicated process. The multiple choice component of the exam is scored by computer, while the free response and essay portions are scored by trained Readers at the AP Reading each June. The scores on various components are weighted and combined into a raw Composite Score. The Chief Reader for each exam then decides on the grade cutoffs for that year's exam, which determine how the Composite Scores are converted into the final grades. During the process a number of reviews and statistical analyses are performed to ensure that the grading is reliable. The overall goal is for the grades to reflect an absolute scale of performance which can be compared from year to year.
Some colleges use AP test scores to exempt students from introductory coursework. Each college's policy is different (see link below), but most require a minimum score of 3 or 4 to receive college credit. Typically this appears as a "CR" grade on the college transcript, although some colleges and universities will award an A grade for a 5 score.
Beginning with the May 2011 AP Exam administration, there will be a change to the way AP Exams are scored. Total scores on the multiple-choice section will be based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers and, as always, no points will be awarded for unanswered questions.
Recognizing that the cost could be an impediment to students of limited means, a number of states and municipalities independent of the College Board have partially or fully subsidized the cost. For example, the State of Florida reimburses schools districts for the exam costs of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the Montebello Unified School District, the Hawaii Department of Education, New York City Department of Education, the State of Indiana subsidizes all AP Examination fees in subjects of math and science, and the Edmonds School District currently subsidize Advanced Placement fees of students who enroll in the free school lunch program. In addition some school districts offer free tests to all students enrolled in any Advanced Placement class.