Student Participation and Performance in Advanced Placement Rise in Tandem

College Board Introduces New, Free Resources to Support AP Students

New York — With the class of 2018, more students than ever are participating and excelling in Advanced Placement® (AP®) Exams. More than 1.24 million students in the class of 2018 took 4.22 million AP Exams in public high schools nationwide, according to the AP Program Results: Class of 2018 report released today.

Over the last 10 years, the number of U.S. public high school graduates who’ve taken an AP Exam has increased by 65%, while the number who have scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam has increased by 63%.

Nearly 40% (38.9%) of the class of 2018 took at least one AP Exam, compared to 25.1% for the class of 2008. The percentage of low-income students participating in AP has nearly doubled in the past 10 years—30.8% of AP Exam takers from the class of 2018 were low-income students, compared to just 16.5% in the class of 2008.

“The remarkable growth brings new responsibilities for the College Board. Even as we celebrate the success of AP, we are alert to the inequities that can undermine student success,” said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board. “We see thousands of students who count themselves out when it’s time to take the exam. That’s why we are making the largest investment in Advanced Placement to date by creating new, free resources that will reach students and teachers wherever they are.”

New AP Resources and Processes

In the 2019-20 school year, the AP Program will provide AP teachers and coordinators with free, flexible tools to plan classes, create assignments, and provide personalized feedback to students over the course of the year. Teachers will have access to an AP question bank to create customized practice tests, unit guides that describe the skills and topics covered in each exam, and detailed dashboards that provide students, parents, and educators with information on a student’s progress.

Other changes include online exam ordering and fall registration to save time for AP coordinators and encourage more students to pursue AP credit. The resources and processes were designed and tested in collaboration with AP teachers and coordinators.

“We learned from schools that when students register in the fall, they are more engaged and persistent when they encounter topics that are initially difficult for them,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the AP Program. “More than half of all AP schools already have a fall registration policy, so we’re moving to make that universal.

In the 2018-19 school year, the College Board piloted fall registration among a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of more than 800 schools and 180,000 AP students. Fall registration had a remarkable impact on the diversity of students registering for AP Exams:

Changes in AP Exam Registration


Spring 2018 AP Exam Registration

Fall 2019 AP Exam Registration

All Students

1.9% increase

7.7% increase

Underserved Minority Students

2.4% increase

14.2% increase

Low-Income Students

-0.7% decrease

9.0% increase

“The results of piloting fall registration have been powerful,” said Trevor Packer. “In just one year of fall registration, schools sped up the work of AP equity by increasing the share of AP Exam registrations for students of color by seven years.”

New Data on AP Computer Science Principles

AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), launched in 2016, has driven the growth of AP computer science in high schools. AP computer science course participation increased by 135% since 2016, helping more students broaden their career opportunities in STEM. The number of female, rural, and underrepresented minority students taking AP computer science exams has more than doubled.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of African American students taking an AP CSP Exam increased by 70% and those scoring 3 or higher by 61%.

For Latino students, the number of students taking AP CSP grew by 68% and those succeeding in AP by 60%.

For female students, the number taking AP CSP last year went up 70%, with an increase of 66% scoring 3 or higher on the exam.

For rural students the participation gains were even higher, with a 73% increase in the number of students taking AP CSP and a 59% uptick in the number of students scoring a 3 or higher.

State Data

The report shows that for the third year in a row Massachusetts leads the nation in the percentage of students taking and succeeding in AP. In Massachusetts, 32.9% of public-school graduates from the class of 2018 participated in AP and scored 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam. This represents a 12.8 percentage-point increase from 2008, making it the state with the largest 10-year increase in AP performance.

The report also shows the District of Columbia had the largest one-year, three-year, and five-year increases in the percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Other states showing strong, sustained growth in the percentage of graduates succeeding in AP include California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. These four states and Washington, D.C., rank in the top 10 for the highest 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year change in the percentage of graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam during high school.

Top 10 States with the Highest Percentage of 2018 Public High School Graduates Scoring a 3 or Higher on an AP Exam During High School:

  • Massachusetts: 32.9
  • Connecticut: 32.2
  • Florida: 31.7
  • Maryland: 31.6
  • California: 31.3
  • New Jersey: 29.0
  • New York: 28.7
  • Virginia: 28.5
  • Colorado: 28.3
  • Illinois: 27.3

More high schools are offering AP than ever before. From 2008 to 2018, the number of schools participating in AP rose from 17,032 to 22,612. The opportunity to earn college credit is a key benefit of AP. Students can save time and money and get a head start on completing their degree with credits earned from their college-level AP work. More states and higher education institutions than ever have set consistent AP credit policies, encouraging students to tackle rigorous coursework and saving them time and money in college. The number of states with an AP credit policy has more than doubled in recent years—from 14 in 2014 to 29 in 2018. Higher education institutions enacted approximately 1,100 new or improved AP credit policies in 2017-18, helping students get the chance to earn the credit they deserve.

Research consistently demonstrates that AP students are better prepared for college. They’re more likely to enroll in college, stay in college, do well in their classes, and graduate in four years.

For more information about the AP Program Results: Class of 2018, please click here.