Advanced Placement exams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Advanced Placement examinations (AP exams) are exams offered in United States by the College Board and are taken each May by students. The tests are the culmination of year-long Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP exams (with few exceptions[1]) have a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

AP Studio Art requires students to submit a portfolio for review. AP Computer Science Principles requires students to complete the Create task, which is part of the AP grade for the class.

AP exams were taken by subject in 2013.


The AP exams grew out of programs initiated in 1951. Part of the rationale for advanced placement given in 1952 was that "advanced standing at the normal college-entering age after high school graduation is more desirable, for many reasons, than acceleration of able students out of high school at age 15½ or 16...".[2] The first Advanced Placement exams were administered in 1954 by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to students limited to 27 schools participating at that time. In 1955, the College Board assumed leadership of the program and testing, deciding on curricula and pedagogical approaches, while retaining ETS to design and score the tests. The exams were given nationally for the first time in May 1956, and students could take whichever tests they wanted for a single $10 fee. The 2020 exams were taken as 45-minute online at-home exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[3]

AP exam format[edit]

The exams themselves do not grade the students' mastery of the course material in a traditional sense. Rather, the students' results guide the grading rubrics and the scale for the "AP Grades" of each exam.

The AP exams are graded each summer at a week-long "grading camp." Both high school AP teachers and university professors are invited to grade the exams at a predetermined location. When the AP Reading is over for a particular exam, the free response scores are combined with the results of computer-scored multiple-choice questions based upon a previously announced weighting.

The Chief Reader (a college or university faculty member selected by the Educational Testing Service and The College Board) then meets with members of ETS and sets the cutoff scores for each AP Grade. The Chief Reader's decision is based upon what percentage of students earned each AP Grade over the previous three years, how students did on multiple-choice questions that are used on the test from year to year, how he or she viewed the overall quality of the answers to the free response questions, how university students who took the exam as PART A experimental studies did, and how students performed on different parts of the exam.

No one outside of ETS is allowed to find out a student's raw score on an AP Exam and the cutoff scores for a particular exam are only released to the public if that particular exam is released in total (this happens on a staggered schedule and occurs approximately once every five to seven years for each exam). Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale:

  • 5: Extremely well qualified
  • 4: Very well qualified
  • 3: Qualified
  • 2: Possibly qualified
  • 1: No recommendation

Spring 2020 exam format changes[edit]

On March 20, College Board announced[4] changes to the spring 2020 exams due to the impact of COVID-19 on school closings. The exams would be 45 minutes long with an online testing version for at-home exams. Any student already registered for an exam could choose to cancel at no charge.

On April 3, 2020, College Board announced more details in regards to specific AP tests.[5] The updates includes more information on the format and structure of the exam.[6] College Board also put out new testing dates for the AP exams.[7] One major change to the AP exam is that the tests will be completely open-note.[8] Students may use any class notes or other non-human resources for the exam.[9] Additionally, College Board will be providing a free distance learning curriculum[10] by livestreaming AP review lessons on YouTube.

In order to make sure that students from underprivileged backgrounds do not face disadvantages in terms of technology to take the test, College Board further invested in technology resources, as that year's exam required the student to possess a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer and a reliable internet connection.[11]

New AP Classes[edit]

In 2021, College Board announced that AP Precalculus and AP African American Studies will be offered to schools in the US starting in 2023-2024 school year. Students who wish to take AP Precalculus must pass Geometry and Algebra 2 or qualify for AP Precalculus Placement. AP Precalculus is more difficult than regular Precalculus class and requires lots of time to study and prepare for the examination in May. This class will cover the usual Precalculus materials but more in depth and will be moving in faster pace. Students may also take AP African American Studies. The purpose of this class is to gain knowledge of African American history and culture as well as African Americans' contribution to the United States. This course also shows the importance of understanding the struggle of African American in the past. This class allows students to achieve educational advancement and other opportunities in the future. On January 12, 2023, the Florida Department of Education banned students in Florida from taking those new AP classes. However, AP Precalculus and AP African American Studies will be available in other states in the United States.

University credit[edit]

In the United States and elsewhere[edit]

Some colleges and universities in the U.S.[12] grant credits or advanced placement based on AP test scores; those in over twenty other countries do likewise. Policies vary by institution, but institutions that award credit usually require a score of 3 or higher on any given exam for credit to be granted or course prerequisites to be waived[13] (and according to The College Board website, some will award an "A" grade for a 5 score).[citation needed] Colleges may also take AP grades into account when deciding which students to accept, though this is not part of the official AP program.

One study[14] found that 38% of top American universities cap the total amount of AP credits that students can receive credit for. Moreover, 75% of schools would not reward credit for at least one AP subject and 9 schools did not reward credit for any AP exam. The study concluded that not rewarding credits delayed graduation and increased costs for students.

Despite some similarities to A Levels in that students choose to specialize in certain subjects, AP testing does not follow the national education curriculum of the United Kingdom, nor is it used as the exams for that curriculum. In that system, AS and A levels (or equivalents) are used in order to gain entry into universities, colleges and other higher education options. They are also often used in job applications. AP exam scores are widely recognized in the admissions process around the world, but credits are only sometimes accepted outside of Canada and the United States. As of August 2019, the College Board provided a downloadable list of universities outside the US that recognize AP for admission and academic credit, in a file which they refer to as "Global Higher Education Recognition".[15] There were hundreds of universities in dozens of countries around the world that recognized AP exam scores in their admission process. AP credit is more limited, but not uncommon in countries that offer four-year undergraduate degrees and accept outside credit.

Calculator policies[edit]

Allowed Calculators[16]

As of 2022, AP students are allowed to use any of the approved calculators on tests that allow them, including some Casio, Texas Instruments, and Hewlett-Packard calculators.[17]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ CollegeBoard
  2. ^ Rothschild, Eric (February 1999). "Four Decades of the Advanced Placement Program". The History Teacher. 32 (2): 175–206. doi:10.2307/494439. JSTOR 494439.
  3. ^ "Updated 2020 AP Exam Dates and Fees | College Board". AP Central. 2006-07-10. Archived from the original on 2020-06-03. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  4. ^ "Advanced Placement® (AP) – the College Board".
  5. ^ "AP Exam Schedule – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  6. ^ "AP Exam Schedule – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  7. ^ "AP Exam Schedule – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  8. ^ "Taking the 2020 AP Exams – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  9. ^ "Tips for Success on Open Book/Open Note Exams – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  10. ^ "Advanced Placement® (AP) – the College Board".
  11. ^ "Taking the 2020 AP Exams – AP Coronavirus Updates | College Board". Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  12. ^ "More colleges stop giving credit for AP exams". 20 February 2013. Retrieved 2017-05-24.
  13. ^ "AP Credit and Placement - AP Student - Search Credit Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  14. ^ Weinstein, Paul Jr. (September 2016). "Diminishing Credit: How Colleges and Universities Restrict the Use of Advanced Placement" (PDF). Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  15. ^ Resources for International Educators – International – College Board
  16. ^ "AP Central - AP Calculator Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  17. ^ "AP Calculator Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-24.