The Advanced Placement Program
The Advanced Placement® Program enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Through college-level courses, each culminating in a rigorous exam and/or through-course performance tasks, AP provides willing and academically prepared students with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both.
The Purpose and Nature of the Exams
AP Exams are offered annually to enable secondary school students to demonstrate college-level achievement. In 2024, AP Exams will be offered based on the learning goals outlined in the following AP Course Descriptions: African American Studies (for schools participating in the 2023-24 pilot), Art and Design (2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, Drawing), Art History, Biology, Calculus (AB, BC), Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science A, Computer Science Principles, Economics (Macroeconomics, Microeconomics), English (Language and Composition, Literature and Composition), Environmental Science, European History, French Language and Culture, German Language and Culture, Government and Politics (Comparative, United States), Human Geography, Italian Language and Culture, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin, Music Theory, Physics (Physics 1, Physics 2, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Physics C: Mechanics), Precalculus, Psychology, Research, Seminar, Spanish (Language and Culture, Literature and Culture), Statistics, United States History, and World History: Modern.
In addition to an exam, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Seminar students submit through-course performance tasks, and AP African American Studies students complete a teacher-scored in-class project that contributes to their exam score. In place of an exam, AP Art and Design students submit portfolios containing digital images of their artwork for evaluation. In place of an exam, AP Research students submit a through-course performance task including an academic paper and presentation and oral defense.
AP Course and Exam Descriptions and the corresponding exams are prepared by AP Development Committees of educators appointed to overlapping terms by College Board and aided by assessment specialists from Educational Testing Service (ETS®). Each committee normally has at least three members from colleges or universities and at least three members from secondary schools. In addition, the AP Exam chief reader serves as an ex officio member of the committee.
Exams vary in length from two to three hours and contain both multiple-choice and free-response or written-response questions. Exceptions are Art and Design, which contains portfolio submissions; Research, which contains through-course performance tasks; and African American Studies, Computer Science Principles, and Seminar, each of which contains a through-course assessment and end-of-course exam. Exams in European History, United States History, and World History: Modern also contain short-answer questions. The AP Exams in World Languages and Cultures, Spanish Literature and Culture, and Music Theory have a listening component. The exams in World Languages and Cultures and Music Theory also have a speaking or sight singing part, respectively. The exams in Chinese and Japanese Language and Culture are administered through computers.
Information About Scoring
The multiple-choice sections of the exams are scored by computer. The free-response or written-response sections and through-course performance assessments are evaluated by AP teachers and college professors, called readers, who spend a week in June scoring answers at the AP Reading.
Development of Scores
While colleges and universities are responsible for setting their own credit and placement policies, AP scores offer a recommendation on how qualified students are to receive college credit or placement:
5 = extremely well qualified
4 = well qualified
3 = qualified
2 = possibly qualified
1 = no recommendation
Before these scores are determined, however, a number of intermediate steps are taken:
- The multiple-choice section is scored by computer. Multiple-choice scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers or unanswered questions.
- Scores are assigned to individual essays or problems in the free-response or written-response section by readers (high school and college educators) at the AP Reading. These scores are based on detailed scoring guidelines established by the Development Committee. All free responses on the end-of-course exam (including AP Seminar), AP Art and Design submissions, and individual written components of performance tasks (in AP Computer Science Principles, AP Seminar, and AP Research) are scored by readers. The Presentation and Oral Defense components of the AP Seminar and AP Research performance tasks, as well as the AP African American Studies project, are scored by the classroom teachers. These teachers receive certification and/or training on how to score their students’ performance tasks or projects within College Board guidelines.
A composite score is created from the combined scores on the multiple-choice and free-response or written-response sections.
- The conversion from the composite scores to the reported AP scores is determined by establishing 4 score boundaries on the composite score scale. The score boundaries for each exam are based primarily on statistical equating to scores on a previous year’s exam. Periodically, and for new and redesigned exams, the initial score boundaries are established through the process of panel-based standard setting.
AP Score Reports
AP score reports are cumulative and include scores for all AP Exams a student has ever taken, unless the student has requested that one or more scores be canceled or withheld from a college. AP scores and any information furnished by students to the AP Program are treated as confidential.
Students must sign in to apscore.org to view their scores. AP score reports are available in July to designated colleges and universities, students, high schools, and districts. They are released to a college only with the student’s authorization through a score report request.
Although most AP score reports are available in July, some reports take longer to process due to late testing or other special circumstances (e.g., late arrival of testing materials or extra time needed to match student records).
If a student’s AP score is delayed, this will be indicated on their score report. Students will receive an email when their delayed scores are available. If scores are not received by August 15, students may contact AP Services for Students.
More information about score reporting and the withholding or cancellation of scores is available at apstudents.org/srs.
Use of AP Exam Scores
AP Exam scores are used by colleges in granting credit, advanced placement, or both for a course in a particular subject. Because preparation for AP Exams involves work equivalent to that for introductory college courses, College Board recommends that colleges award credit to students who receive AP scores of 3, 4, or 5 and admit such students to appropriately advanced courses. Students seeking credit through their AP scores should note that each college or university, not the AP Program or College Board, determines the nature and extent of its policies for awarding credit, advanced placement, or both. Because policies regarding AP scores vary, students should consult the AP policy of individual colleges and universities. They can find this information in a college’s catalog or on its website, or by using the AP Credit Policy Info search at apstudents.org/creditpolicy.