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The AP Exams

In This Section
Explore the life cycle of the AP Exams, look at the most current AP Exam calendar, and review the exam administration details that AP Coordinators will follow as they guide the school through the annual exam period. In this section you will also find sample multiple-choice and free-response questions, sample student portfolios for AP Studio Art, language samples for the modern language exams, and sight-singing samples for AP Music Theory.

The Exams
The AP Examinations are administered each year in May and represent the culmination of college-level work in a given discipline in a secondary school setting. Rigorously developed by committees of college and AP high school faculty, the 35 AP Exams in 20 subject areas test students' ability to perform at a college level.

Development Committees meet throughout the year to create new exams, which each contain a free-response section (either essay or problem solving) and a section of multiple-choice questions. (The only subject that does not follow this format is AP Studio Art, which is a portfolio assessment.) The world language exams also have a speaking component, and the AP Music Theory Exam includes a sight-singing task. The multiple-choice questions are scored by computer, while the free-response portions are evaluated by a team of skilled college professors and high school teachers who meet annually to score exams in their subject area. The involvement of college faculty at all levels of exam development and scoring ensures that the AP Exams truly reflect college-level achievement. Students who perform well can receive course credit and/or advanced standing at thousands of universities worldwide.

AP Exams are created, administered, and scored with rigor and attention to statistical standards for reliability and score validity. To ensure that AP Exams accurately measure college-level knowledge and performance in each discipline, the development process includes college curriculum surveys, pretesting of multiple-choice questions, and college comparability studies. Further, a set number of multiple-choice questions are reused from year to year, making it possible for statisticians to compensate for differences in difficulty between exams of different years. Each exam question is analyzed to ensure that performance on any given question does not greatly vary between set populations, such as males, females, whites, African Americans, and Latinos. On the rare occasions when such analysis shows that the wording of an exam question might have contributed to inequitable performance by one set population, the question is omitted from the scoring. Finally, those reading the exams are carefully monitored to ensure that scoring guidelines are followed and scores are consistent from Reader to Reader.

Exam Facts

  • In May 2005, 2.1 million AP Exams were taken.
  • AP Exams are administered at more than 15,000 schools in 100 countries.
  • Since the first AP Exams were given in 1956, more than 12.6 million students have taken more than 19 million AP Exams worldwide.
  • On average, 62 percent of the AP Exams taken receive a grade that is recommended for college credit, advanced placement, or both. More than 90 percent of the colleges and universities in the United States recognize these exam grades.
  • More than 1,400 institutions grant a full year's credit (sophomore standing) to students presenting satisfactory grades on a stated number of AP Exams. This represents not just the chance to save on college tuition and graduate early from college but also frees up time in a student's college schedule, allowing a student to take more advanced courses, to double major, or to explore additional disciplines and opportunities.

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