Advanced Placement

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This article is part of the
Advanced Placement series.
General exam structure    •    Awards
Current subjects:
In development:
Former subjects:

Advanced Placement (AP) is a program in the United States and Canada, created by the College Board, which offers college-level curricula and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities often grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores on the examinations. The AP curriculum for each of the various subjects is created for the College Board by a panel of experts and college-level educators in that field of study. For a high school course to have the AP designation, the course must be audited by the College Board to ascertain that it satisfies the AP curriculum. If the course is approved, the school may use the AP designation and the course will be publicly listed on the AP Course Ledger.[1]

In 2013, the most taken AP exam was English Language and Composition with 476,277 students, and the least taken AP exam was Japanese Language and Culture with 1,169 students.[2]


After the end of World War II, the Ford Foundation created a fund that supported committees studying education.[3] The program, which was then referred to as the "Kenyon Plan,"[4] was founded and pioneered at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, by the then college president Gordon Chalmers. 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.[5] 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[6] based in New York City, has run the AP program since 1955.[7] From 1965 to 1989, Harlan Hanson was the director of the Advanced Placement Program.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Many high schools in the United States offer AP courses,[11] though the College Board allows any student to take any examination, regardless of participation in its respective course.[12] 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 2013 testing season, exams cost $89 each,[13] 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 $26 or $28 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 $89, $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 – would be discontinued after the 2008–2009 school year due to lack of funding.[14][15] However, the Italian Language and Culture test was again offered beginning in 2011.

Starting July 2013 AP allowed students for the first time to both view and send their scores online.[16]

The number of AP exams administered each year has seen a steady increase over the past decade. In 2003, 175,860 English Language and Composition exams were administered. By 2013, this number had risen to 476,277, or an increase of 171%. Such an increase has occurred in nearly all AP exams offered, with the AP Psychology exam seeing a 281% increase over the past decade.


AP tests are scored on a 1 to 5 scale as follows:[17]

Grading AP exams 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.[18]

Some colleges use AP test scores to exempt students from introductory coursework, others use them to place students in higher designated courses, and some do both. Each college's policy is different (see link below), but most require a minimum score of 4 or 3 to receive college credit.[19] 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.[20] Some countries, such as Germany, that do not offer general admission to their universities and colleges for holders of an American high school diploma without lengthy preparatory courses will directly admit students who have completed a specific set of AP tests, depending on the subject they wish to study there.

In addition, completing AP courses help students qualify for various types of scholarships. According to the College Board, 31 percent of colleges and universities look at AP experience when making scholarship decisions.[21]

Beginning with the May 2011 AP Exam administration, the College Board changed the scoring of AP Exams.[22][23] Total scores on the multiple-choice section are now based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points are no longer deducted for incorrect answers and, as was the case before, no points are awarded for unanswered questions. However, scoring requirements have also been increased.

Score reporting[edit]

Starting with the May 2013 AP Examination Administration, the College Board launched an Internet-based score reporting service.[24] Students can use their 2013 AP Number or Student Number (if one was indicated), along with a College Board Account,[25] to access current and previous years' exam scores. This system can also be used to send scores to colleges and universities for which a 4-digit institutional code[26] is assigned.

Exam subsidies[edit]

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, and the state of Indiana subsidize all AP Examination fees in subjects of math and science, and the Edmonds School District in suburban Seattle currently subsidizes 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.

Advanced Placement courses[edit]

There are currently 37 courses and exams available through the AP Program. A complete list can be found below:

Upcoming exam changes[edit]



Recent exam information[edit]

2014 scoring results
ExamNumber administered % 3 or higherMean score
Art History23,21359.62.82
Calculus AB294,07258.92.94
Calculus BC93,18084.64.02
Chinese Language10,72894.54.43
Computer Science39,27861.22.96
English Language505,24455.82.79
English Literature397,47755.02.76
Environmental Science130,32147.32.60
European History110,29759.52.65
French Language21,26878.03.36
German Language5,11173.33.34
United States Government271,04350.72.62
Comparative Government20,36162.03.09
Human Geography136,44852.02.64
Italian Language2,33169.63.23
Japanese Language2,31175.93.56
Music Theory17,17662.73.07
Physics B93,57460.72.89
Physics C: Electricity and MagnetismError/Same as Physics B
Physics C: Mechanics47,00076.73.56
Spanish Language135,34189.33.72
Spanish Literature20,11874.53.14
Studio Art: 2-D Design26,81178.53.33
Studio Art: 3-D Design4,25667.53.04
Studio Art: Drawing16,92877.53.27
United States History462,76652.42.76
World History245,69954.52.66


Faculty at a number of universities have expressed doubts about the value of a passing AP score. Highly capable students who receive scores of 3 or 4, but not the perfect 5, are being given college credit at fewer universities. Academic departments also criticise the increasing proportion of students who take and pass AP courses but are not ready for college-level work.[27]

Research conducted by Philip M. Sadler and published in AP: A critical examination of the Advanced Placement program found that students who took AP courses in the sciences but failed the AP exam performed no better in college science courses than students without any AP course at all. Referring to students who complete the course but fail the exam, Sadler stated in an interview that "research shows that they don’t appear to have learned anything during the year, so there is probably a better course for them".[28]

The Advanced Placement Program has also been criticised for not being as widely recognised internationally as the IB Diploma Programme, which is accepted in countries throughout the world. American schools overseas, such as the Shanghai and the Singapore American Schools, which offer the Advanced Placement Programme have been criticised for doing so only to encourage students to attend universities in North America rather than elsewhere.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "AP Course Ledger". AP Course Audit. University of Oregon. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Student Score Distributions". College Board. 2013. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "A Brief History of the Advanced Placement Program". College Board. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Historical Markers: Kenyon College". Kenyon College. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  5. ^ Stanley N. Katz (March 10, 2006). "The Liberal Arts in School and College". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 21, 2011. 
  6. ^ About the College Board from
  7. ^ The History of the AP Program from
  8. ^ DiYanni, Robert (2008). "The History of AP Program". Retrieved July 23, 2009. 
  9. ^ The Advanced Placement Program from
  10. ^ Program Summary Report 2006 from
  11. ^ AP Fact Sheet from
  12. ^ AP: Frequently Asked Questions from
  13. ^
  14. ^ de Vise, Daniel (April 4, 2008). "AP Language, Computer Courses Cut". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  15. ^ Important Announcement about AP Italian Language and Culture from
  16. ^ AP Online Scores
  17. ^ AP: The Score-Setting Process from
  18. ^ "AP Central – Exam Scoring". College Board. Archived from the original on January 13, 2008. 
  19. ^ Understanding AP Exams from
  20. ^ Multiple-Choice Scores from
  21. ^ College Board. "AP Program". Retrieved August 5, 2012. , citing "Unpublished institutional research, Crux Research, Inc. March 2007."
  22. ^ "Guess What? Taking AP Exams Just Got Easier". ParentDish. 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2011. 
  23. ^ Finnegan, Leah (August 11, 2010). "AP Eliminates Guessing Penalty On Tests". Huffington Post. 
  24. ^ "Score Reporting Services". College Board. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "Create a CollegeBoard Account". College Board. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  26. ^ "List of 4-digit Institutional Codes, PDF". Educational Testing Service. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Zimar, Heather (2005). "Universities Raise Standards for Earning Advanced Placement Credit". SEM Source: An Update on State of the Art Student Services (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) (January 2005). Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  28. ^ Hood, Lucy; Sadler, Philip M. (2010). "Putting AP to the Test: New research assesses the Advanced Placement program". Harvard Education Letter 26 (May/June 2010). Retrieved November 7, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]