Advanced Placement – an alternative pathway to US college admissions

What is the Advanced Placement (AP) and how is the AP scored? Relocate takes a look at this alternative from the College Board to the SAT tests for pupils entering higher education in the United States and abroad.

The Advanced Placement (AP) is another programme of learning and assessment designed to help US higher-education institutions assess students for entry into college and university. The AP is developed and administered by the College Board, the organisation responsible for the SAT tests.Based in New York, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. According to their website, each year the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programmes and services in college readiness and college success.According to the College Board, “With AP classes, you’ll experience the thrill of overcoming difficult problems as well as the pride of seeing challenges through to the end. College can be challenging, and learning how to work intensely and overcome academic obstacles while in high school can enable you to experience the joy of making it over the hurdles that may confront you during college classes.”
The AP is specifically designed to be closely linked to the first year of college in the US, so students typically take the programme to demonstrate a commitment to a discipline or subject that they hope to continue studying at college level.According to the Fulbright Commission, the AP is more rigorous and in-depth than the standard high-school courses offered in US schools and compares favourably to A Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, both of which are considered to be the gold-standard qualification for university preparation.
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“The internationally recognised AP programme is a demanding and rewarding curriculum,” says Mark London, Marketing Manager at ACS International Schools in the UK. “As well as providing useful currency for students considering further education programmes throughout the North American continent, more than 60 countries worldwide now recognise AP scores in their admission processes, including many universities in the UK.”Mr London believes that students who have studied AP courses are more likely to leave school equipped with skills, such as working collaboratively and speaking publicly, which, according to ACS International Schools, are highly sought after by international employers.

Benefits of taking AP classes

According to the College Board, the AP provides students with the opportunity to:
  • dig deeper into subjects that interest them
  • developed advanced research and communication skills
  • tap into their creative, problem-solving and analytical potential
  • access rigorous college-level work
  • build confidence
  • learn the essential time management and study skills needed for college and career success.
While the AP is not necessary for entry into US higher-education institutions, students are able, by undertaking the programme, to demonstrate a commitment to the subject they hope to take further. And, especially for the most competitive of universities, successful completion of the AP could offer admissions officers further insight into a student’s academic abilities.

Advanced Placement scores

There are around 34 AP courses available. Exams are taken in May and the results sent directly to the universities a student hopes to attend.The score is a weighted combination of scores from the multiple-choice and the free-response sections of the test. The scores range from 1 to 5 – 1 equals “no recommendation”, 2 is “possibly qualified”, 3 is “qualified”, 4 is “well qualified” and 5 is “extremely well qualified”.A score of 3 or “qualified” means that a student is capable of doing the work of an introductory-level course in a particular subject at college. Many colleges or universities grand credit and placement with scores of 3, 4 or 5; however, each college decides which scores to accept.At some universities, AP scores can be used to skip introductory-level courses or award credit towards an undergraduate degree. Students are able to move directly to upper-level classes and focus on the work that interests them, freeing up time for them to possibly take up a second major or minor (subject), or pursue additional interests.“College credit and/or advanced placement can be a big reward for all the hard work you put into your AP courses and exams,” says the College Board. “With a head start on your degree, you may have the flexibility to move into upper-level courses sooner, pursue a double major or study abroad.”

Advanced Placement International Diploma

The Advanced Placement International Diploma (APID) is a globally recognised award for students attending secondary schools outside the US and to students attending US high schools who are applying to universities outside the country. It is an award that recognises exceptional achievement on AP exams across several disciplines.The APID requires a score of 3 or higher on five AP exams and allows students to demonstrate that they have exceeded most university entry requirements.This article was originally published in September 2016.

Relocate Global’s new annual Guide to International Education & Schools provides a wealth of advice to anyone searching for a new school in the UK and in an international setting, and offers insights into what it takes to make the right school choice. 

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