Teacher resources and teacher professional development

Advanced Placement and Exams

The Advanced Placement (AP) Program, a national non-profit educational association of colleges, universities and high schools, monitors introductory-level college curriculum and then designs courses, materials, and professional development to deliver the curricula in middle schools and high schools. National examinations are administered to measure the knowledge and skills of students who have taken AP courses. The program encourages colleges and universities to grant credit and/or advanced placement to students representative of their achievement.

What are the benefits of an AP program to students and schools?

Through AP's college-level courses and exams, students can earn college credit and advanced placement, stand out in the admission process, and learn from some of the most skilled, dedicated, and inspiring teachers in the world.

Students who take AP courses:

  • Are more challenged and stimulated by the enhanced rigor of the coursework
  • Are better prepared for college
  • Are more likely to be accepted by the college or university of their choice
  • May earn college credit or advanced placement based on their AP exam score
  • May reduce the cost of college by earning college credit
  • Are more likely to complete college in four years
  • Are more likely to graduate with a double major and pursue advanced studies
  • Are more likely to take on leadership roles

AP Benefits to schools include:

  • Increased focus on teaching analytical thinking and disciplined study skills
  • Effective teacher professional development that improves methods and revitalizes enthusiasm
  • Increased teachers’ job satisfaction and pride
  • Strengthened curriculum and teaching quality through Pre-AP and Vertical Team activities
  • Nationally recognized measures of academic excellence through AP exam results

Who designs the AP courses and writes the AP Exam questions?

One of the things that makes the Advanced Placement Program unique is its establishment of and reliance on Development Committees. These committees are essential to the preparation of Course Descriptions and exams. It has been found that a committee of highly qualified secondary school and college teachers can best determine the content of an AP course, and can design an exam that will be appropriate for assessing the achievement of students who have taken the AP course.
Most Development Committees have six or seven members, representing a variety of types of secondary schools and colleges from all regions of the country. They also represent a diversity of knowledge and points of view in their fields. Committee members bring to their tasks knowledge of the curricula and instructional methods in their fields. As faculty members, they know the abilities and skills that are critical to mastery in a given subject, and how students can demonstrate them.

AP Exam Scores

What AP scores represent

Each AP Exam score is a weighted combination of the student's score on the multiple-choice section and the free-response section. The final score is reported on a 5-point scale:

5 = extremely well qualified to receive college credit and/or placement
4 = well qualified to receive college credit and/or placement
3 = qualified to receive college credit and/or placement
2 = possibly qualified to receive college credit and/or placement
1 = no recommendation for receiving college credit and/or placement

Periodically, the AP Program conducts college comparability studies for each AP subject by administering a portion of the AP Exam to college students enrolled in equivalent courses. The Program then compares the performance of these students on the sample AP Exam with their actual course scores. Results indicate that:

  • AP Exam scores of 5 are equivalent to grades of A in the corresponding college course.
  • AP Exam scores of 4 are equivalent to grades of A-, B+, and B in college.
  • AP Exam scores of 3 are equivalent to grades of B-, C+, and C in college.

How is a score determined?

  1. The multiple-choice answer sheets are scored by computer.
    Each answer sheet is run through an electronic scanner. This transfers the information directly to cartridges, creating a record for that sheet. The scanning cartridge is processed by computer. The computer program checks each record for invalid or missing identification data and scores the student's responses.
    Total scores on the multiple-choice section are based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers and no points are awarded for unanswered questions.
  2. The free-response questions are scored at the annual AP Reading.
    Unlike the multiple-choice section, which is scored by machine, the free-response section is scored by Readers at the annual AP Reading.
  3. The composite score is calculated.
    For each AP Exam, there is a formula for combining the scores for the multiple-choice and free-response sections or subsections into a maximum weighted score (composite score). Once the weights have been decided and the free-response section scored, computing each student's composite score is a purely mechanical process and is done by computer.
    Deciding on the cut-off point between each of the five scores is not a simple process. The statistical processes of equating and scaling are used to make adjustments to the cut-off scores each year. These adjusted cut-off scores are presented to the Chief Readers along with other information about the students' performance on the exam. The Chief Reader then makes the final decision about the four cut-off scores which determine the five AP Exam scores.

Exam Cost

The fee for each AP Exam is $94, set by The College Board. The school normally retains $9 of that fee as a rebate to help with administrative costs. See AP Exam Reduction Fee program to see if a student qualifies.