Advanced Placement exams

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Advanced Placement examinations are exams offered 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 and Explore tasks, which are 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 exams themselves do not grade the students' mastery of the course material in a traditional sense. Rather, the students themselves set 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

University Credit[edit]

In the United States and Elsewhere[edit]

Some[3] colleges and universities in the U.S. 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[4] require a score of 3 or higher on any given exam for credit to be granted or course prerequisites to be waived (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.

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 United Kingdom, not 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." 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[5][edit]

Allowed Calculators

As of 2017, AP students are allowed to use any of the approved calculators, including some Casio, Texas Instruments, and Hewlett-Packard calculators. Also, they may bring up to 2 calculators. Not all exams allow a calculator, but those that do allow all the allowed calculators to be used.[6]

See also[edit]

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. ^ "More colleges stop giving credit for AP exams". Retrieved 2017-05-24.
  4. ^ "AP Credit and Placement - AP Student - Search Credit Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  5. ^ "AP Central - AP Calculator Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  6. ^ "AP Calculator Policy". Retrieved 2017-05-24.