Advanced Placement exams

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Advanced Placement examinations are taken each May by students at participating American, Canadian, and international educational institutions. The tests are the culmination of year-long Advanced Placement (AP) courses. All but one of the AP exams combine multiple-choice questions with a free-response section in either essay or problem-solving format.[1] AP Studio Art, the sole exception, requires students to submit a portfolio for review.

AP exams were taken by subject in 2013.


The exams themselves are not tests of 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. 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 this is 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 years for each exam). 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: Well-qualified
  • 3: Qualified
  • 2: Possibly qualified
  • 1: No recommendation

University credit[edit]

In the United States[edit]

Many 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 most schools require a score of 3 or higher on any given exam for credit to be granted or course prerequisites to be waived (and 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.

In Canada[edit]

In Canada the same score scale is used:

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

In the United Kingdom[edit]

AP testing is not done in the United Kingdom, instead a combination of GCSE's, AS and A levels (or equivalents) are used in order to gain entry into universities, higher education, colleges and are often used in job applications. GCSE's are completed by the summer of Year 11 where students enter aged 15 and finish year 11 at 16. Most institutes then uses these grades for advancement into 'sixth-form' or year's 12-13 where AS and A levels are sat. Not all schools in the UK offer education at year 12 and year 13. In Year 12 students take AS-levels, normally 4 however it is common for those who take Further Mathematics to take 5. These are sat in the summer. Based on the success of these grades applications to universities are made, Universities also look at what grades you are predicted to achieve. Most Universities also require a minimum of at least 5 GCSEs. A2's are taken during year 13 with exams still taken in the summer. These build upon the material covered in AS. Together they are known as an A-level. Results return later in the summer and acceptance of university offers is normally heard on the same day (They receive the results a week before). Some private schools instead use the English or International Baccalaureate (instead of A-levels) and some use Level-3 BTECs instead. However nearly all qualifications from U (ungraded) to A* the highest level. The highest grade on AS's is an A.

Like in the United States, the policy tends to vary by institution.

In China[edit]

Grading of exams[edit]

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.

Notes and references[edit]