All about Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams

The AP program gives students the opportunity to take college-level courses while they are still in high school.

By GreatSchools Staff

Does your high school student want to get ahead and do college-level work in high school? The Advanced Placement program provides that opportunity.

The AP program is run by the College Board, which develops the curriculum, creates and administers the exams, and provides support for teachers. The AP program gives students the opportunity to take one or more college-level courses while they are still in high school, and to receive college credit if they receive a score of 3, 4 or 5 on the AP test.

What AP courses and exams are offered?

The AP program currently offers 37 courses and exams across 22 subject areas. Schools vary in which AP courses they offer. In 2008-2009 the College Board offered AP Exams in Art History, Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science A, macroeconomics, microeconomics, English Language, English Literature, Environmental Science, European History, French Language, French Literature, Italian Language and Culture, German Language, Comp Government & Politics, U.S. Government & Politics, Human Geography, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin Literature, Latin: Vergil, Music Theory, Physics B, Physics C, Psychology, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics, Studio Art, U.S. History, and World History. Due to under-enrollment, the College Board will be eliminating Computer Science AB, French Literature and Latin Literature after the 2008-09 academic year.

The number of students taking and passing AP exams is rising. In 2002, close to 12 % of U.S. high school students scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP test. In 2008, that number rose to 15% of all high school students.

Many schools offer college-level AP classes to prepare students for the AP exams, but students can take exams without completing a specific course. Taking AP courses helps students develop the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for a successful transition to college, and increases a student's likelihood of graduating on time. AP courses are generally demanding, and require a certain level of maturity and dedication for students to succeed.

On GreatSchools school profiles, you can see which exams were given at each high school. If an exam is listed, it means that at least one student at the school took the exam. This information does not tell you which AP courses are offered at the school. To find that information, contact the school directly.

How much do the exams cost?

Students are required to pay $86 per exam. For those who demonstrate need, financial aid is available from the College Board, as well as from some states, cities and school districts.

Issues to consider

Questions to ask at your high school