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Advanced Placement General Information

Advanced Placement Courses

Advanced Placement courses are rigorous college-level courses that offer students major benefits and advantages, primarily in the potential for college credit upon successful completion of the AP Exam, administered in May of each year.

Advanced Placement courses also offers weighting double that of an honors or Pre-IB course (0.04 per Semester / 0.08 per Year). This weighting is equal to that of a junior or senior level International Baccalaureate (IB) courses or Dual Enrollment college courses.

Advanced Placement courses also offer a college-level work load and thus serve as an excellent preparation for college. Most colleges look highly upon students electing to take AP courses, as these students are prepared in advance for a college-level work load in addition to possessing advanced study, reasoning and thinking skills. These courses also tend to improve a student's time-management skills.

AP Scholar Awards

The AP Program offers several Scholar Awards to recognize high school students who have demonstrated college-level achievement through AP courses and exams. Although there is no monetary award, in addition to receiving an award certificate, this achievement is acknowledged on any grade report that is sent to colleges the following fall.

The award calculation differentiates between exams that cover full-year college courses and those that cover half-year college courses. Results of exams corresponding to half-year courses (Computer Science A, Environmental Science, Human Geography, Comparative Government and Politics, U.S. Government and Politics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Physics C-Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C-Mechanics, Psychology, and Statistics) are given half the weight of exam results corresponding to full-year courses.

Advanced Placement Courses

Advanced Placement courses are rigorous college-level courses that offer students major benefits and advantages, primarily in the potential for college credit upon successful completion of the AP Exam, administered in May of each year.

Advanced Placement courses also offers weighting double that of an honors or Pre-IB course (0.04 per Semester / 0.08 per Year). This weighting is equal to that of a junior or senior level International Baccalaureate (IB) courses or Dual Enrollment college courses.

Advanced Placement courses also offer a college-level work load and thus serve as an excellent preparation for college. Most colleges look highly upon students electing to take AP courses, as these students are prepared in advance for a college-level work load in addition to possessing advanced study, reasoning and thinking skills. These courses also tend to improve a student's time-management skills.

AP Scholar Awards

The AP Program offers several Scholar Awards to recognize high school students who have demonstrated college-level achievement through AP courses and exams. Although there is no monetary award, in addition to receiving an award certificate, this achievement is acknowledged on any grade report that is sent to colleges the following fall.

The award calculation differentiates between exams that cover full-year college courses and those that cover half-year college courses. Results of exams corresponding to half-year courses (Computer Science A, Environmental Science, Human Geography, Comparative Government and Politics, U.S. Government and Politics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Physics C-Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C-Mechanics, Psychology, and Statistics) are given half the weight of exam results corresponding to full-year courses.

Award Levels

  • AP Scholar - Granted to students who receive grades of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • AP Scholar with Honor - Granted to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • AP Scholar with Distinction - Granted to students who receive an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • AP State Scholar - Granted to the one female and one male student in each U.S. state and the District of Columbia with the highest average grade (at least 3.5) on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 3 or higher on the greatest number of exams. The minimum requirement is a grade of 3 or higher on three exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • National AP Scholar - Granted to students in the United States who receive an average grade of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • National AP Scholar (Canada) - Granted to students in Canada who receive an average grade of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 4 or higher on five or more of these exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • Department of Defense for Education Activity (DoDEA) Scholar - Granted to the one male and one female student attending DoDEA schools with the highest average grade on the greatest number of AP Exams. The minimum requirement is a grade of 3 or higher on three exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).
  • AP International Scholar - Granted to the one male and one female student attending an American international school (that is not a DoDEA school) outside the U.S. and Canada with the highest average grade on the greatest number of AP Exams. The minimum requirement is a grade of 3 or higher on three exams on full-year courses (or the equivalent).

Guidelines for AP Student Selection

The College Board's booklet entitled A Secondary School Guide to the Advanced Placement Program (pages 34-35) addresses the issue of selection of AP students, and offers some points to consider for schools that are in the process of setting or revising their policy. Here's the material, verbatim:

"Most schools have found it useful to devise written guidelines for admitting students to AP courses. These guidelines, developed cooperatively by teachers and administrators with input from parents and students, can encourage capable students to enter AP classes while clarifying the expectations for both in- and out-of-class work. These general rules also encourage common standards for teachers in admitting and retaining students in their AP courses. The standards can help parents to understand AP requirements and to hold reasonable expectations for their children's success in a college-level course.

The factors commonly given greatest weight in admitting students into AP courses are grades, teacher recommendations, and parent/student requests. Some schools, however, admit virtually every student who applies for an AP course. Those who can't keep up with the work are first provided with teacher or peer tutoring or other assistance. Then, if students simply can't maintain the AP class pace, they transfer to less demanding courses. The advantages of open enrollment are clear in terms of giving every motivated student an opportunity to try a very demanding course, and in satisfying student and parental requests for access to AP courses. The possible downside of such a policy is the scheduling problem if many students have to be transferred.

Other schools are very restrictive in admitting students to AP courses. They set high prerequisites in terms of courses taken and grades received and may, as a result, have higher AP grades but fewer AP courses and students. Other schools are more relaxed about requirements for entering AP courses; as a consequence, they have more courses and more students in AP classes. Each position can be defended. If schools that insist on high standards for admission to AP courses make strenuous efforts to advance the quality of instruction in middle school and junior high school, the results may be greater numbers of AP students who perform well on AP Exams. But opening the AP classroom door a little wider is also a tenable approach. Sometimes, students with quite mediocre records will blossom in a challenging classroom environment. The gain in student skills and confidence seems to counterbalance the lower average grades that may result.

Scores on the verbal and or/math sections of the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) sometimes reveal student abilities that have not been evidenced by their classroom grades. Administrators and teachers normally want to give students opportunities to demonstrate the quality of work they appear capable of doing. Students' commitment to meeting the challenge is critical to their success."

In 1997, the College Board conducted a research study into the use of the PSAT/NMSQT to identify additional students who may be successful in AP courses. It is important to understand, though, that such use of the PSAT/NMSQT is intended as a means of identifying students who can potentially benefit from AP courses and be successful in those courses who haven't already been identified via other means (e.g., teacher recommendations, self-nomination, previous courses completed, and grades in relevant previous high school courses). To quote from the report: "...it should never be used as the sole, or even the primary, indicator" -- especially to exclude students from AP classes.

In summary, the AP Program wants there to be the option for any student in any school to take an AP course if he or she has sufficient pre-AP knowledge and skills. We don't want this to be a program for elite students or just the gifted and talented. The use of Pre-AP strategies, including Building Success and AP Vertical Teams, is invaluable in preparing a broader segment of students for success in AP and other challenging courses.

How Valuable is AP?

  • "I'm not sure how well I would do in an AP course or exam. Even if I did get a good grade, I'm not sure that I would use it. So why should I get involved with AP?" This is a common concern of high school students who are considering which courses to take in their upcoming academic years. However, there are numerous benefits to be gained from taking AP, some of which are described below. Remember that you risk nothing by taking the AP Exam, since you determine which colleges, if any, will receive your grade.

  • You'll study a subject in greater depth . . . If you are interested in a particular subject and want to learn more about it with classmates who are just as enthusiastic, your best bet is to take an AP course.

  • You'll find out what you can really do . . . If you don't challenge yourself, you'll never know what you're capable of achieving. If you take an AP course and work hard for nine months, taking the exam completes the picture. If you don't take the exam, you might always wonder how well you could have done. Prove to yourself that you have mastered college-level material, and discover the satisfaction of reaching your goal.

  • You may gain a clearer idea of what you want to do next . . . Students who are unsure about future plans say that AP has helped to steer them toward college or advanced studies.

  • AP prepares you for college work . . .AP courses and exams represent the beginning of the journey through college-level academic challenges. Once you're used to being challenged you're more likely to continue with advanced studies (AP students are twice as likely to go into Ph.D. programs). AP is not just a test; it's an experience. AP courses motivate you to work hard, and you can improve the quality of all your courses based on the skills you gain in one AP course.

    The work you do in an AP course will help you develop skills and study habits that will be vital in college. For example, you will learn how to analyze problems effectively, improve your writing skills, and prepare for exams. These are tools that will serve you well throughout your college career.

  • You'll improve your chances of getting into a competitive college . . . Students who take AP courses and exams are more knowledgeable about the demands of college work. Colleges and universities recognize that applicants with AP experience are much better prepared for the demands of college courses. Admissions officers are well aware of the difficulty of AP courses and exams, and sending them your AP Exam grades can only be a positive step toward potential admission into competitive colleges.

  • You'll be prepared for the unexpected . . .You never know what the future holds. Plans change, career choices change, family circumstances change, usually when you least expect it. Once you have taken an AP Exam, your grade is a permanent part of your transcript. The vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States, and many outside the United States, grant either academic credit, advanced placement, or both, to incoming students with qualifying AP grades.

  • You'll be making a good investment . . .As we all know, money doesn't grow on trees, and it is important to think ahead. By taking an AP Exam, you will be investing in yourself and your future. If you receive a qualifying grade on an AP Exam, your $78 exam fee investment can translate into major savings. A course credit at a state university such as Georgia Tech can be worth about $300, and at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, you will save approximately $3,000.

  • You'll get good value for your money . . . The cost of an AP Exam is a concern for some students. But put this into perspective — how much do you spend on the latest video game, or a couple of compact discs? Given how hard you work in and out of school, isn't it time you put something into yourself and your future?

  • You'll have more time for yourself at college . . . Gaining credit or advanced standing in college can give you time for other interests that you might not have otherwise been able to pursue; for example, time abroad, extra classes, independent studies. This is the fun stuff that most college students just don't have the time or money to do.

  • You're getting a head start . . . Every year, hundreds of students achieve sophomore standing by earning enough qualifying AP grades: more than 1,400 institutions in the United States alone grant a full year's credit to students who present satisfactory grades on enough AP Exams. Write to the colleges you are interested in attending to get the most up-to-date information about their AP policies.

  • You'll increase your options . . . Earning AP credit has allowed thousands of students to take a double major in college, move into upper-level courses in their field of interest, or complete their undergraduate degrees in less than four years.

  • You'll improve your self-esteem . . . By succeeding in an AP course and exam, you will know in advance that you have the ability to succeed in college. Students who have this confidence are less likely to go for the easy options at college, and are more likely to specialize in majors with tougher grading standards. They are also more likely to take a greater course load and complete a greater number of higher-level courses. Students who succeed academically are likely to achieve other significant accomplishments in college and throughout their lives.

  • You'll broaden your horizons . . . Many students say that their AP experiences made them look at things differently. For example, working with a dedicated AP teacher can be a great influence on you both personally and in your scholastic development. Also, working with other students who are "going for it" can be extremely stimulating. Some AP students feel that AP gave them a leg up, providing opportunities that would not otherwise have come their way.

  • You may be eligible for a Scholar Award . . . The AP Program offers a number of Scholar Awards to AP students who have demonstrated outstanding achievement. Although there is no monetary award, an acknowledgement of this achievement appears on the student's AP transcript. Scholar Award recipients not only gain recognition from colleges, but also win the admiration of their peers, families, and communities.

AP Student FAQ's

AP Student FAQ's: Before Signing Up for an AP Course

  • How difficult are AP courses? Compared with regular high school courses, AP courses are usually more demanding. Depending on the subject, you may read and write more, analyze material, synthesize ideas, solve problems, and evaluate. Most AP classes are comparable to sophisticated college courses, so they aren't easy, but they're not impossibly difficult either. The intellectual skills and interests you can develop in AP courses — critical reading, analyzing data sets, synthesizing evidence to develop new insights, etc. — will equip you for lifelong learning. Your investment in any AP course is sure to provide many returns..

  • Why should I take a more difficult course and risk getting a lower grade? The grade you receive may be as good as or better than one you would have earned in an easier course, because many schools weight the grades given in AP courses to compensate for the increased difficulty. Secondly, college officials know that all courses are not equal. Their evaluation of student grades focuses as much on the quality of the courses as on the grades received. Finally, an AP course gives you an opportunity to learn a subject in greater depth and helps you develop skills that will be critically important to successful study in college.

  • I'm not sure I'm interested in college credit or advanced placement. Why should I take an AP course and exam? Taking an AP course provides you with extra learning opportunities. The course gives you the kind of background and preparation that will prove beneficial in your college courses, and an AP grade shows your college that you have learned college-level material and deserve credit and/or advanced placement for meeting that challenge.

  • Can I take the AP Examination if I haven't taken an AP course? The College Board urges students to study the kinds of skills and subjects outlined in the Course Description for each subject, because they represent the basis for the AP Examination. The best way to do so is in a year-long AP course in which the students and teachers focus on AP-level work. Some students, however, have taken strong courses and/or have studied in depth on their own. Such students may be able to perform quite well on the AP Examination.

  • I'm not sure I am ready for an AP course and examination. What do I need to succeed? You need to be willing and you need to be able. "Willing" means motivated to study and learn on the college level. If you are committed to participating actively in an AP class and doing the out-of-class assignments, you have met a major prerequisite for success. "Keeping up" is a basic practice for any college-level course. These courses move rapidly and cover a lot of ground. Successful students are those who keep up or, better, stay a little ahead of the required reading. You must also be able to do the work. Your record in earlier courses is the most obvious indicator of that ability.

  • How do I get into an AP course? How do I sign up for the exam? First, discuss your interest with the teacher of the AP course at your school or the AP Coordinator to find out if he or she feels you can handle the extra work. You may also want to discuss the course with your parents. Your AP teacher or AP Coordinator will tell you when in May the AP Exam will be offered at your school, and how to register for it.

AP Student FAQ's: After Taking an AP Exam

  • How are the exams graded? How much is the free-response section worth? The multiple-choice sections of the exams are scored by computer. The free-response booklets are evaluated by readers — carefully selected college professors and AP teachers — who spent a week in June scoring over four million essays, solutions to extended problems, audiotaped responses, and works of art. The answer to each free-response question is scored by a different reader, someone who has been specially trained to assess answers to that question. The names of the students and the schools remain concealed to preserve anonymity.

    How much the free-response section is "worth" varies from exam to exam. Most often the free-response score contributes 50% to the total exam score, but it can vary from 33.3% to 60% of the total.

  • Can I get a copy of my answer sheet and free-response booklet? Your multiple-choice answer sheet will not be available, but you can get your free-response booklet. The cost of each booklet is $10, and you may order booklets by writing to:

    AP Services
    PO Box 6671
    Princeton, NJ 08541-6671

    Please provide your full name and home address, and the name of the exam(s) for which you want the booklet(s).

  • Why does it take until July to get a grade report? While it may seem like a long time between the exam in May and the reporting of grades in July, it takes time for all exam materials to be collected and scored. Although the multiple-choice questions are scored by computer, responses to the free-response questions (including the audiotapes for foreign languages and music theory) are evaluated by almost 5,000 readers who convene on several college campuses for one week in June. Once this process begins, grades are produced quickly.

  • Can I get my AP grades earlier by phone? Grades by Phone will be available for students in the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada for a fee of $15 per call. This service will be offered 24 hours a day by TouchTone phone and will remain available for about six weeks. The toll-free number is 888 308-0013. Students outside the U.S. and Canada can call AP Services from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

  • Who receives my AP Grade Report? How can I have a copy sent to a college? AP Grade Reports (transcripts) include your grades for all AP Exams you've ever taken. A copy of the report is automatically sent to you, your college (if you designated one on your answer sheet) and your school the July following the exam administration.

    If you want a copy of your grade report sent to a second college or if you did not designate a college on your answer sheet, the fee for each transcript is $14. There are three ways you can make this request:

    -Call (609) 771-7300; please note that a $7 billing fee will be added to the total amount of each telephone request for regular transcripts. 
    -Complete the right half of your AP Grade Report and send it to the address in option 3, below. 
    -Send a letter with your name, gender, birth date, AP number (only if available - not required), the year(s) you took the AP Exams, and the name, city, and state of the college(s) to receive your transcript.

AP Prep —Foreign Language

To do well in the free-response section, you need to master four major skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Practice is the key; you should take every opportunity to improve your language skills. For an AP course in foreign literature, participate fully in and out of class by analyzing prose and poetry both orally and in writing.

Here are some suggestions on how to improve your language skills.

  • Listening- Listen carefully to your teacher and to others who are fluent in the language who speak at different speeds and with different accents. Tune in to foreign TV and radio programs whenever possible, and use recorded material such as videos and audio cassettes. Even better, try to attend undubbed foreign films in commercial theaters. A school's language laboratory will also provide aural training, and should be used regularly.

  • Speaking - Many students feel natural inhibitions and hesitations in speaking, but try not to worry about how others may perceive you if you make a mistake. It is only with continued practice that you will begin to speak with facility. Therefore, participate in debates, discussions, dialogues, and skits as much as you can. In addition, practice in a language laboratory gives you the opportunity to compare your speech with that of a model speaker.

  • Reading - You should read a wide variety of materials, such as literary prose, essays, poems, dramatic works, dialogues, cartoons, advertisements, book reviews, and journalistic material, including editorials. For the literature course, be sure to read and study all the works on the required reading list.

    When you read, look out for the grammatical cues of the text, such as verb tenses, and pay attention to factual information in the text (understanding who, what, when, where, why, and how). For the literature course, practice doing a close reading of selected passages for linguistic as well as stylistic analyses, such as recognition of register, tone, humor, irony, and narrative techniques.

  • Writing - Of all the language skills, writing is considered by many teachers and students to be the most sophisticated. Unlike listening and speaking — which are in part receptive skills that may be facilitated by having another person present — writing is usually practiced alone on subjects you have already discussed, heard, or read about. Because writing can be revised numerous times — and therefore progressively improved — you will be expected to exercise greater accuracy, precision, and clarity than in oral performance.

  • General Tips for Exam Day - When composing an essay, organize your thoughts and make a brief outline first. (Organizational notes will not be scored.) The final essay should have a clear focus, logical development, appropriate details, and supporting materials that reinforce and enhance the ideas in the essay.

    Pay close attention to accuracy. You will be penalized for incorrect spelling.

    When recording answers in the speaking section, speak as extensively and appropriately as you can within the allotted time.

    If you are asked to give an account of a picture sequence, remember that there is no single correct interpretation. Any accounting of the story is acceptable as long as it is relevant. If you don't know specific vocabulary, try circumlocution to explain what you mean.