2.7 Million Students Expected to Take Nearly 5 Million AP Exams in May

2.7 Million Students Expected to Take Nearly 5 Million AP Exams in May; Success on AP Exams can save students tens of thousands of dollars in additional college costs

New York – During the first two weeks of May, 2.7 million students across the country will take 4.9 million Advanced Placement® (AP®) Exams, the culmination of their hard work in AP courses throughout the school year. As AP participation rates have risen over the past decade, its quality has remained consistent, leading Nat Malkus, an independent researcher from American Enterprise Institute, to say “AP might be the single happiest education story of the century.” Success in Advanced Placement courses has multiple benefits for students, including the development of skills needed to succeed in college and savings on college costs.

Research shows AP students are more likely to finish their degrees on time, saving the costs of a fifth year of college, which can range in price from $20,090 to $45,370, on average. Of the students who don’t participate in AP and who enroll in a four-year college or university, only 30% complete their college degrees in four years. A fifth year of college requires students to forgo earnings of about $32,000, on average. Because AP students are more likely to finish their degrees promptly, they enter the workforce and begin earning income sooner, both lowering their college costs and avoiding forgone income.

Policymakers in several states have taken action to ensure that students who succeed on AP Exams receive the college credit they’ve earned. Twenty-two states now have AP credit policies that guarantee credit at public institutions for passing AP scores, with California, Kansas, and Oklahoma most recently enacting such policies. Even among private colleges, AP credit policies were expanded this year, and more private colleges’ credit policies award credit for AP scores of 3 than in the 2015-16 school year.

AP Program Results released in February show that over the past 10 years both AP participation and performance increased among high school students. A total of 1.1 million students from the class of 2016 took at least one AP Exam, nearly double the 645,000 students who took at least one AP Exam in the class of 2006. Over the same time period, the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam grew by 7.6 points, from 14.3% to 21.9% of high school graduates.

The 2017 AP administration, which covers 38 AP courses, includes the first AP Exam administration of the newest course, AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). The College Board launched AP CSP in the fall of 2016. The goal was to create leaders in computer science and give those who are traditionally underrepresented in computer science fields tools and opportunities to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). AP CSP is offered in more than 2,500 schools, making this the largest AP course launch ever. Over 50,000 students in 49 states are currently working on their digital portfolios which, in combination with the AP Exam in May, will be used to award college credit in computer science.

“Challenging AP courses develop the skills students need to succeed in college classrooms. They are more likely to enroll in a four-year college and earn higher GPAs while there,” said Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president of AP and Instruction. “Students have the opportunity to save money and time by earning college credit and placing out of introductory courses with an AP Exam score of 3 or higher. And once they’ve placed out of introductory courses, AP students perform as well or better than their peers in higher level courses.”

What Students Are Saying About AP

Following the 2016 AP administration, the College Board surveyed 40,000 students who completed at least one AP Exam.

  • Over 80% of AP students agree that after taking AP courses, they feel more confident about doing well in college.
  • Almost 90% of AP students agree that they learned skills in their AP courses that they’ll use in college.
  • The top two reasons students take AP Exams are for college credit and placement.
  • Nearly three-quarters of AP students agree that the best teacher they’ve had in high school was an AP teacher.
  • “AP has allowed me to further my education while in high school, and allowed me to develop skills that I will use in college.” –Henry, high school senior, NC
  • “Thanks to the AP Exam scores, I’ve earned 15 credits before enrolling to college, which is awesome and a huge sigh of relief for my wallet.” –Bridget, college freshman, WI
  • “AP was the best and most interesting class I’ve ever taken. I don't know if it was because of my teacher, or the material we learned. But, this class has kind of been the highlight of my senior year.” –Chyna, college freshman, MI

Who to Contact

If you plan to cover the 2017 AP administration, the College Board Communications team can connect you with College Board officials and with K–12 and higher education experts and educators. Please email [email protected] or call 212-713-8052 if you need additional information, are interested in scheduling an interview, or would like photos or B-roll for an upcoming piece.