Study: Students Scoring Higher on AP Exams

By Catherine Groux
Posted February 21, 2013 01:00 PM

Students are earning higher scores on AP Exams.
Students are earning higher scores on AP Exams.

More high school students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and at the same time, a greater percentage are earning high scores on their final AP Exams, a new report by the College Board shows.

Scores Soar for Most Students

Last year, about 19.5% of U.S. public high school students scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam at some point during their academic career. This marks a 7.9 point increase since 2002. According to the College Board, a 3 signifies that students are "qualified" in the subject they are being tested on, and roughly equals a B- to a C+ grade in a college course.

As the national average of students succeeding on AP Exams rises, certain states are outshining others. For example, in Maryland, almost 30% of the Class of 2012 earned a 3 or higher on an AP test before graduating. Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut boasted similar rates, all hovering around 27%.

While this is encouraging news for the state of American secondary education, Trevor Packer, senior vice president for the AP program, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the College Board report also highlighted "distressing results" for many minority students.

Last year, only 9.2% of African Americans said they took an AP Exam in high school, compared to 56.4% of Caucasian students. Furthermore, only 4.4% of African Americans earned a score of 3 or higher on an AP Exam, while more than 60% of Caucasian students did the same.

Higher Scores Meet Higher Expectations

In many ways, students' higher AP Exam scores are correlated with colleges' rising expectations. While most colleges once awarded students credit for a score of a 3 or higher, this is slowly changing, as more institutions demand scores of a 4 or 5.

Packer told the Chicago Tribune that between 1999 and 2005, several colleges announced that they would only accept 4s and 5s, but it was not until recently that this became a larger trend in academia. Today, many universities want students to earn credit on campus, rather than through transfer or AP courses, Packer explained.

For example, individuals who attend Yale University must earn either a 4 or 5 on their AP Exam, depending on the subject, to receive course credit, the College Board states. At Boston University, while students can still earn credit for scoring a 3 on select AP Exams, a vast majority of subjects require them to earn a 4 or 5.

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