Advanced placement

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Advanced placement is a program created by the College Board offering college-level curriculum and examinations to high school students. American colleges often grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores above a certain number on the examinations. The AP curriculum for the various subjects is created for the College Board by a panel of experts and college-level educators in each subject. For a high school course to have the AP designation, the course must be audited by the College Board to ascertain 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 Ledger. As of 2013, the most taken AP exam was AP English Language with 476,277 students, and the least taken was AP Japanese Language and Culture with 1,169 students.[1]


After the end of World War II, the Ford Foundation created a fund that supported committees studying education.[2] The program, which was then referred to as the "Kenyon Plan,"[3] 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.[4] 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[5] based in New York City, has run the AP program since 1955.[6] From 1965 to 1989, Harlan Hanson was the director of the Advanced Placement Program.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] Many high schools in the United States offer AP courses,[10] though the College Board allows any student to take any examination, regardless of participation in its respective course.[11] 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,[12] 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.[13][14] However, the Italian Language and Culture test was again offered beginning in 2011.

Starting July 2013 AP allowed students for the first time to view as well as send their scores online. [15]


AP tests are scored on a 1 to 5 scale as follows:[16]

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

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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

Beginning with the May 2011 AP Exam administration, the College Board changed the scoring of AP Exams.[21][22] 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.[23] Students can use their 2013 AP Number or Student Number (if one was indicated), along with a College Board Account,[24] 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[25] is assigned.

Exam subsidies[edit]

The College Board provides either a $26 or $28 fee reduction per exam for students with financial need [26]. For each exam taken with a fee reduction, the school forgoes its $8 rebate, resulting in a cost of $55 or $53 per exam for the student. For states and U.S. territories that participate in the federal AP Test Fee Program, which provides funding for low-income students’ AP Exams, the College Board fee reduction per exam is $26. Colorado is one of several states and territories with a $26 College Board fee reduction in 2014.

Advanced placement courses[edit]

There are currently 34 courses and exams available through the AP Program. A complete list can be found below:

Two new courses will be offered in 2014, though current physics tests may be cut in the future.


  1. "Student Score Distributions". College Board. 2013. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  2. "A Brief History of the Advanced Placement Program". College Board. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  3. "Historical Markers: Kenyon College". Kenyon College. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  4. Stanley N. Katz (March 10, 2006). "The Liberal Arts in School and College". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 21, 2011. 
  5. About the College Board from
  6. The History of the AP Program from
  7. DiYanni, Robert (2008). "The History of AP Program". Retrieved July 23, 2009. 
  8. The Advanced Placement Program from
  9. Program Summary Report 2006 from
  10. AP Fact Sheet from
  11. AP: Frequently Asked Questions from
  13. de Vise, Daniel (April 4, 2008). "AP Language, Computer Courses Cut". The Washington Post. Retrieved Jan 21, 2011. 
  14. Important Announcement about AP Italian Language and Culture from
  15. AP Online Scores
  16. AP: The Score-Setting Process from
  17. "AP Central – Exam Scoring". College Board. Archived from the original on January 13, 2008. 
  18. Understanding AP Exams from
  19. Multiple-Choice Scores from
  20. College Board (August 5, 2012). "AP Program". Retrieved August 5, 2012. , citing "Unpublished institutional research, Crux Research, Inc. March 2007."
  21. "Guess What? Taking AP Exams Just Got Easier". ParentDish. 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2011. 
  22. Finnegan, Leah (August 11, 2010). "AP Eliminates Guessing Penalty On Tests". Huffington Post. 
  23. "Score Reporting Services". College Board. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved July 4, 2013. 
  24. "Create a CollegeBoard Account". College Board. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved July 4, 2013. 
  25. "List of 4-digit Institutional Codes, PDF". Educational Testing Service. 2013. p. 1. Retrieved July 4, 2013. 
  26. "Fee reductions for AP Exams". College Board. 2014. p. 1. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 

External links[edit]