Advanced Placement exams have lost their value


While the number of administered Advanced Placement tests is rising, the number of top universities giving credit for exams is steadily decreasing.

Yena Seo

Monday, May 5 marked the beginning of two weeks of late-night cram sessions, eraser shavings and scantron bubbling. As Advanced Placement (AP) exams are administered across the nation to stressed high schoolers, questions regarding the merit and value of these tests arise.

As a senior this year, I’m taking two AP classes (the minimum number one can take in their final year at Jefferson): AP Government and AP Literature. I’ve taken seven AP courses in my four years, just barely above the school average, all classes I was interested in (or forced into) taking. However, at Jefferson and even on a national scale, the number of AP classes students are enrolling in is steadily rising. Students will take exams at the end of the year without taking the classes, or enroll in a number of online AP classes to boost their resume.

An AP exam is administered for several hours in a controlled, proctored environment. Students are encouraged to do their best, to try their hardest, with the incentive of college credit looming over their heads. Scores are the number of AP tests taken are used by state officials and educators to measure school performance. But here’s the thing–credit for AP exams is slowly being transitioned out by colleges. So while students will study and work hard in the actual classes to maintain their grades, the tests are treated as a joke, especially amongst seniors. For me personally, neither of my exams this year will give me college credit–one of which because I took the AP Language and Composition test last year. The number times you could hear the phrase “they don’t even count for me” in a senior class are too many to count, and several students will even doodle in their exam booklets come test day.

In 2013, Dartmouth College decided that it would no longer accept college credit from AP scores. After conducting a study of 100 incoming freshmen who had scored 5’s on their AP Psychology exams, Dartmouth realized that 90 of these students could not pass the school’s Intro to Psychology final. And out of the students who had taken the AP class but also enrolled in the Psychology 1 course at Dartmouth, there was no difference in performance between students with AP Psychology experience and those without.

AP exams serve little to no purpose, and will probably cease to exist in the next couple of decades. Sure, you can boast to colleges how many AP classes and exams you took, but they don’t have a huge impact on your admission. Getting all 5’s on your exams, or suffering a 2 on one, will not grant you acceptance nor rejection from a top university. In fact, AP exam scores are self-reported by students, and I know many students who did not send their AP scores to colleges and still ended up at Ivies. On the other hand, I also know many students who sent a laundry list of straight 5’s and were rejected by their top-choice schools. While taking an AP class may demonstrate that a student has an academically challenging schedule, these classes vary in rigor–a high school AP course in Alabama will most likely have a different curriculum than one in Massachusetts. This also explains the wide range of scores in APs, and the fact that on many of the tests, getting more than 70 percent correct will grant you a 5.

AP courses are often the most fun and interesting classes offered at a school, which is the best reason students should take whatever classes peak their interest. But students should not enroll in these classes to boost their GPA or to show off their schedule on college applications. Most top universities are phasing these exams out, and there is no universal rigor for classes, making them too inconsistent for colleges to even take seriously. So the next time you find yourself incredibly stressed out the night before an AP exam, treat yourself to some candy or even better, go to sleep. The next time you find yourself deciding between a regular or honors class you love and an AP class you dread, follow your passions, not the extra 1.0. Because chances are, your score won’t even matter, and your self-happiness and health are much more important than a score on a practically worthless exam.