The Advanced Placement program, sponsored by College Board, once seemed to be a flawless, ideal way to expose students to upper-level courses at the high school level. The program was begun to allow students the opportunity to prepare for the rigors of college earlier without being forced to pay the incredible costs that universities charged for tuition. The AP program has been massively successful, but in recent years, colleges have begun awarding less or no credit for AP test scores. Obviously, the question on everyone’s mind – especially students taking AP class who are now finding out that their dream schools might not recognize their hard work in high school – is why. Before delving into the reasons why some colleges are no longer awarding credit hours for AP test scores, it is important to realize the way the AP program works.
The AP program exposes students to university-level courses by using a standardized curriculum that CollegeBoard tries to survey several universities to discover. Then, students who have taken AP courses at their high school can opt to take the AP test in May, and depending on their scores (which range from 1 to 5 overall, although individual sections of each test may be graded on different scales), most schools have the option to award college credit.
In the past, and even now, 3s (the minimum passing score) on the AP test would earn students some course credits, while 4s and 5s on particular exams would award either more credit or honors credit.
So, why might colleges opt to award no credit?
1) CollegeBoard standards are too low.
For highly selective schools like many of the Ivy League schools, the courses that AP classes attempt to measure have much higher standards than the AP classes. The AP program is limited in what it can and cannot reasonably test of students, so it makes sense that a university with an excellent chemistry department might not accept AP Chemistry class results because it has better lab facilities than most high schools.
2) Colleges still want students to ease into college life with a first year of general education.
Normally, AP test scores end up covering general education requirements at school. Students with enough AP test scores, then, can often advance whole semesters or even years without having stepped foot on campus. Obviously, universities can’t afford to have too many of these students come through while they promote a policy for general education, so one solution is to reject AP credits.
3) High schools misuse the AP program.
The AP program is designed to train students for college-level courses, but many high school misuse the AP program by teaching to the test for inflated score averages. This creates a set of AP-educated scholars whose actual knowledge of the subjects they have studied is limited.
4) Students themselves misuse the AP program.
On the other end of the spectrum, because many high schools offer GPA benefits for AP courses, students might take the course only for the boost to their GPA. This serves to create artificially motivated students who, once again, have impressive AP test score records, but may not necessarily have deep knowledge of their subjects.