Change is Coming to AP Exams!

The College Board, which develops SAT and Advanced Placement Exams, recently announced that it will change the scope of most of the latter exams. The Board re-vamped the SAT’s in 2005, adding a writing section that brought the total score from 1600 to 2400. At the end of any given AP course, students take the exam to earn college credit. The scores range from 1-5; many universities will accept a 3 or higher. Now, in an attempt to streamline AP courses, they are altering those tests as well. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “The change is beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year with a new curriculum taking effect in two smaller programs, German and French language. Major revisions to physics, chemistry, European history, world history and art history will follow, with the hope of being ready for exams in 2014 or 2015.”
The non-profit organization first presented the Advanced Placement exams in 1956, in response to requests from private college-preparatory high schools that wanted to show how well their students could perform. “The board based the exams on what colleges taught in freshman survey courses.” Yet, aside from a rather broad outline of themes, the Board did not provide much guidance regarding course structure. Therefore, as the curricula of various courses like biology and world history expanded, the material that these year-long courses needed to cover became very broad and often unwieldy. Teachers attempted to cram in as much material as possible, with decreasing success: “While the number of students taking the A.P. biology test has more than doubled since 1997, the mean score has dropped to 2.63, from 3.18. On the exam last May, slightly fewer than half of the test-takers scored a 3, which equates to a C in a college course. And while 19 percent of students earned 5’s, almost twice that many got 1’s, which could be a failing grade in college.” In fact, some universities have stopped accepting the AP’s altogether, favoring their own placement exams to determine course eligibility.
Along with the new exams, which may pare down some of the course material, the Board will also provide a framework around which to design the courses. Such re-structuring may allow for more flexibility for class content. Students considering taking an AP course within the next year might consider deferring that enrollment for another year, if possible.

One Response to “Change is Coming to AP Exams!”

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