AP Logo How to Start an AP® Course

7 Simple Steps to Get You There

You have students who are prepared and eager for a college-level learning experience. Now what? Here are the seven steps to add an Advanced Placement® (AP) course at your school.

  • • Administrators
  • • Teachers
  • • Both

Choose a Course and Add It to Your Catalog

How to Do It

  • Review AP Potential or other data to identify students who are prepared for college-level courses and exams.

    • If you have a "critical mass" of students with high potential for success on an AP Exam, consider adding a new AP course or a new section for an existing course.

    • Providing an AP course for these students can help your school or district increase access to AP while maintaining or improving performance on AP Exams.

  • Consider the costs for textbooks, supplemental reading, materials and equipment, and teacher training.

  • Consider exam-administration costs. Administering additional exams may increase costs for things like proctoring and offsite testing. Some exams have specific requirements that may generate additional costs for schools, but these are generally minimal.

  • Review the curricular and resource requirements of the course and check if the course has any recommended prerequisites.

  • Ensure that the new course is included in your course catalog.

Ask Yourself

  • Does the course align with your current schedule, accountability framework, and class size and graduation requirements?

  • If you cannot offer the course on your campus, can you offer the option of authorized online AP courses through an online or distance learning provider?

  • Do the data show any opportunities to extend greater access to AP to traditionally underserved minority and/or low-income students?

  • Are there any local organizations, businesses or foundations that can help defray costs for the course or exams?

When to Do It

  • Early to mid fall

Select a Teacher

How to Do It

  • Select a teacher based on interest, availability, and your state's certification requirements.

    • Ideally, the teacher should also demonstrate passion, energy, and enthusiasm; belief in access and equity for all students; and a desire to expand their educator best practices.

  • Ensure that the teacher knows where to find the most important online information for AP teachers: the Course Home Page, the AP Course Audit website, and the AP Teacher Community.

  • Make plans to register the teacher for summer professional development (strongly recommended for new AP teachers).

    • Investigate state and local funding for professional development.

    • Consider applying for AP Fellows grants if your school has 50% or more minority or low-income students. These grants provide $1,000 for attending an AP Summer Institute.

  • If you don't already have one, identify a staff member that can serve as the AP Coordinator. The AP Coordinator is responsible for managing AP Exams at the school, and works closely with AP teachers to ensure that exams are ordered and administered successfully.

Ask Yourself

  • What are the strategies, supports and resources that will be used to foster the teacher's success?

    • Consider additional professional development opportunities, such as AP workshops.

    • The teacher should join the online AP Teacher Community to discuss teaching strategies, share resources and connect with other AP teachers in the subject.

    • Other ways to support teachers: set up a mentoring program with more experienced teachers or AP Readers, facilitate networking opportunities with other AP teachers at schools in your area and provide an extra planning period.

When to Do It

  • Mid to late fall

Recruit and Register Students

How to Do It

  • Review updated AP Potential data in December and identify additional students for the new course.

  • Promote the new course to students and their parents.

    • Showcase the course at AP registration events, parent nights, class visits and one-on-one meetings.

    • Use available media resources such as the school website, student newspaper, parent newsletter, brochure and email.

  • Explain the core benefits of AP for students:

    • Identifies passions, talents and interests early

    • Hones critical-thinking skills; provides tools for constructing solid arguments, testing theories, considering diverse viewpoints and solving problems

    • Enhances self-discipline and time management strategies; encourages goal setting and planning

    • Offers valuable college-cost savings and advanced placement opportunities

    • Demonstrates that the student has taken most rigorous course work available, which is valued in the college admission process

  • Communicate clear policies and expectations regarding workload, grading and taking the exam.

  • Determine how many sections will be offered.

Ask Yourself

  • Would incentives such as applying extra weight for course grades, waiving the final exam if students take the AP Exam or paying for exam fees support participation in the course and exam?

    • About 75% of schools offering AP give extra GPA weight for AP courses. Most commonly, schools give 0.76–1.0 of additional weight (i.e., they raise a 3.0 to a 4.0).

    • Many schools offering AP require students in AP courses to take the AP Exam

  • Do you want students and their parents to sign an AP participation agreement or exam registration form?

When to Do It

  • Late fall to late spring

Obtain Course Materials

How to Do It

  • Inventory existing materials.

  • Review the example textbooks lists for each AP subject, available on the AP Course Audit website.

  • Develop a priority list of materials and resources to ensure student and teacher success.

  • Seek multiple vendors, including textbook retailers and resellers.

  • Utilize Web resources, including class resources posted on:

    • AP Teacher Community: After the teacher signs up for the community, he or she can browse a wealth of teacher-developed or teacher-recommended resources in the searchable Resource Library.

    • Course Home Pages: Anyone can access course descriptions, course planning and pacing guides, curriculum frameworks, special focus materials, curriculum modules, lesson plans and teaching strategies.

Ask Yourself

  • Do you wish to apply for grant, foundation or donor support for materials?

When to Do It

  • Late spring to early summer

Complete AP Course Audit Requirements

How to Do It

  • Submit AP Course Audit materials between March and January.

    • Teachers must submit an electronic copy of the syllabus and complete the subject-specific AP Course Audit form.

    • The Course Audit school administrator (the principal or the principal's designee) must complete and finalize the subject-specific AP Course Audit form.

  • Review the AP Course and Exam Description.

  • Review the available Course Audit resources designed to help teachers prepare syllabi:

    • Example textbook list

    • Syllabus development guide

    • Annotated sample syllabi

    • Syllabus self-evaluation checklist

Ask Yourself

  • Do you want the new course reflected in the initial publication of the online AP Course Ledger? If so, submit Course Audit materials by the end of June.

  • If students are taking the course online, has the course been authorized through the AP Course Audit? Did you add the online course to your school's AP Course Ledger?

When to Do It

  • Late spring to late fall

Attend AP Professional Development

How to Do It

  • Attend a weeklong AP Summer Institute (strongly recommended for new AP teachers).

  • Consider attending a full-day workshop during the academic year.

  • The teacher should join the online AP Teacher Community to discuss teaching strategies, share resources and connect with other AP teachers in the subject.

Ask Yourself

  • Have you explored funding sources for training, including state, federal and College Board programs?

    • Consider applying for AP Fellows grants if your school has 50% or more minority or low-income students. These grants provide $1,000 for attending an AP Summer Institute.

  • Have you established policies and plans for regular professional development?

When to do it

  • Summer

Launch the Course

How to Do It

  • Start planning for the exam order, identifying space and equipment needed for the exam administration and preparing students for the exam.

  • Complete additional steps if your school has not offered AP courses and exams before.

    • Obtain a College Board school code

    • Select an AP Coordinator

    • Complete the AP participation materials

Ask Yourself

  • What are the strategies, supports and resources that will be used to foster the students' success?

    • Conduct summer ramp-up institutes, boot camps or bridge programs for incoming AP students.

    • Offer support during non-class hours and on weekends, and extra hours of instruction to prepare students for AP Exams.

    • Provide students with practice materials, such as released questions and study guides.

    • Administer mock exams to help familiarize students with the content and flow of the exam.

    • Facilitate study groups.

  • How is the AP course being communicated throughout the school?

  • How can we reflect the increased rigor of an AP course in our other courses and lower grade levels?

  • How are we ensuring that all students are prepared to take an AP course?

When to Do It

  • Late summer to early fall

Why Students Take AP

Students told us what motivates them to take rigorous AP courses:

  • College benefits: AP helps students get into the college of their choice, place out of introductory college classes and earn college credit.
  • Rich classroom experience: Students say AP courses are more interesting than regular classes.
  • Educators like you: After parents, teachers are the most significant influencers on what courses students take.

Free Support for AP Teachers

New AP teachers can access a wealth of free information and resources on the College Board website:

  • Online AP teacher communities: Threaded discussions organized by topic, searchable resource libraries and member directories
  • Classroom information and resources: Course descriptions, curriculum frameworks, special focus materials, curriculum modules, lesson plans and teaching strategies
  • Exam questions: Practice exams, released exams, free-response questions, scoring guidelines, and sample student responses and commentary
  • Course Audit resources: Annotated sample syllabi, syllabus development guides and example textbook lists
  • Tools to build your AP program: Tips for planning AP informational events, links to videos, student and parent brochures in English and Spanish, and other free tools

Costs at a Glance

Starting an AP course can cost less than $2,000.

Costs at a Glance

These are startup costs for an AP class of 25 students. View costs for individual AP courses.