Advanced Placement Program
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are courses that follow a prescribed curriculum and course guidelines provided by the College Board. The courses are designed to be equivalent to rigorous college level courses in those subjects.
Students taking an AP course must commit to also taking an AP examination in that course in May. Enrollment in the course requires that the student register and pay for the AP exam ahead of time. The exam is prepared by the College Board and mailed away to be scored by outside correctors.
Students taking AP courses have their other class work graded by their teachers at the school and receive grades throughout the year that are weighted when entered into the student’s overall academic record. Nevertheless, it is the score received on the AP exam in May that colleges assess in awarding possible credit or advanced standing at their institutions.
The exam grades are either 1,2,3,4, or 5. An A grade earns a score of 5 and is the highest grade awarded on the exam. Different institutions award varying amounts of college credit depending on the score and the policies of the college. There is a considerable range of credit that different colleges may award. Some very selective colleges state that they do not award any credit for AP exams.
However, all colleges do take notice of the results of these exams, and a strong score (4 or 5) can favorably affect an admissions decision. While it is certainly the case that these exams can result in college credit or sometimes an accelerated program of study, a stronger case might be made for their value in presenting solid evidence of academic accomplishment that will impact admissions.
AP examinations are recognized throughout the United States, and the College Board website states that there are over 110,000 AP course given in secondary schools worldwide.
Students taking AP courses can apply for each one individually so they can take courses in areas that they are strongest in. Because of the intense rigor of such courses only honors students who consistently receive grades of 90 or above should apply for an AP course. The work load is intense, with assignments and extra readings that can be daunting to even a strong student. It should be noted that there is no advantage to a student taking an AP course and not performing well on the AP exam in May. These courses can be a powerful tool in the college admissions process, but they are clearly not for every student.