Student Advanced Placement Participation and Performance Increase Over Last Ten Years

Between 2013 and 2023, the percentage of U.S. public high school graduates who took an AP Exam has increased, as has the percentage of U.S. public high school graduates who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam.

A growing number of U.S. public high school graduates are participating and succeeding in Advanced Placement® (AP®), according to the AP Program Results: Class of 2023 report released this month. Nearly 1.2 million students in the class of 2023 took more than 4.1 million AP Exams in public high schools nationwide, as educators across the country continue to enable a wider and more diverse population of students to experience the benefits of AP courses. 

Over the last 10 years, the number of public high school graduates nationally who have taken an AP Exam increased from 31.5% of the class of 2013, to 34.7% of the class of 2023. Notably, more than 420,000 traditionally underrepresented students—including Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students—graduated in 2023 from U.S. public high schools having taken at least one AP Exam, which is nearly 140,000 more underrepresented students than 10 years prior.

The report also shows that 738,698 students, or 21.7% of the class of 2023, scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam during high school, up from 19.1% of the class of 2013. 

“We’re proud that now more than ever, hardworking teachers, school leaders, and policymakers across the country are recognizing the value of AP and making student access a priority,” said Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program. “We’re continuing to change the invitation to students and broadening course access through career-relevant, project-based courses like AP Computer Science Principles, AP Seminar, and AP Precalculus since we know that taking just a single AP course has a positive impact on students’ futures.”

The class of 2023—9th graders at the onset of the pandemic—is the first cohort since the class of 2020 to see an expansion in AP participation. 

Participation Matters

While a score of 3 or higher on an AP Exam in high school gives students the chance to earn college credit, advanced placement in college courses, or both, new evidence highlights how AP students who earn scores lower than a 3 benefit from their experiences in AP:

  • Students are more likely to enroll in a 4-year college. AP students, including those with average scores of 1 or 2, are more likely to enroll in a 4-year college, compared to academically similar students who didn’t take AP in high school.
  • In introductory college courses, students perform as well as or better than those who didn’t take AP. Students who earn AP scores of 2 are well-prepared to succeed in introductory college coursework. Compared to academically similar college peers who didn’t take an AP course, AP students who earn scores of 2 perform as well as or better than their peers when they take those introductory college courses.
  • Students go on to score higher on subsequent AP Exams. Many students who first score a 1 or 2 on an AP Exam take further AP courses and score higher.

State Highlights

This year, Massachusetts leads the nation in the percentage of students taking and succeeding in AP. In Massachusetts, 31.3% of public school graduates from the class of 2023 scored 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam. This represents a 4.9 percentage-point increase from 2013. Massachusetts also had the highest percentage of graduates in the classes of 2018, 2020, and 2022 scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam during high school.

The top 10 states with the highest percentage of 2023 public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam in high school are:

  • Massachusetts 31.3
  • New York 28.9
  • New Jersey 28.6
  • Florida 28.4
  • Connecticut 27.9
  • Illinois 27.5
  • Maryland 27.4
  • California 26.6
  • Colorado 26.5
  • Virginia 25.5

The District of Columbia had the largest 10-year increase—12.3 percentage points—in the percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on AP Exam. The District of Columbia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, and New Jersey had among the largest 10-year growth in the percentages of graduates taking an AP Exam in high school. Given the research showing the powerful benefits of AP for students who take the exam, regardless of their score, it’s notable that states have made significant progress in supporting students taking exams.

Changing the Invitation

Based on lessons learned from the successful introduction of AP Computer Science Principles in 2016, the AP Program continues to develop courses that are more relevant to students’ interests and career aspirations and are engaging them in more rigorous coursework earlier in high school. 

AP Precalculus was introduced in school year 2023-24, and with nearly 200,000 students enrolled, became the largest AP course launch in history. AP Precalculus is designed for any student who has taken Algebra 1, geometry, and Algebra 2, so any precalculus student can be an AP Precalculus student.