Advanced Placement exams

Advanced Placement exams

Advanced Placement examinations are taken each May by students at participating Canadian, American, and international educational institutions. The tests are the culmination of year-long AP courses. All but one of the AP exams combine multiple-choice questions with a free-response section in either essay or problem-solving format [ [ Collegeboard] ] . (AP Studio Art, the sole exception, requires students to submit a portfolio for review.)


Each June, the free-response sections and Studio Art portfolios are scored by thousands of university faculty and Advanced Placement instructors at a number of Advanced Placement Readings in locations throughout the United States. These free-response sections are scored according to rubrics designed for the specific prompts. Before the readers arrive, a number of people from the Advanced Placement Program's Reading Leadership randomly select a number of free response booklets and match these booklets against the preliminary question rubrics designed by the test development committee when they wrote the question. If, based on the sampling, the students did not perform as well as expected, the scoring rubric is made easier. If, based on the sampling, the students did better than expected, the scoring rubric is made more difficult. In addition, the Reading Leadership attempts to find what they believe epitomizes the best example of a free response that should be scored at each score level (usually the free responses are scored on a scale of 0 to 9) for purposes of training the readers. It usually takes about one week for the readers to score all of the free response sections for one exam.


The exams themselves are not tests of the students' mastery of the course material in a traditional sense. Rather, the students themselves set the grading rubrics and the scale for the "AP Grades" of each exam. When the AP Reading is over for a particular exam, the free response scores are combined with the results of computer-scored multiple-choice questions based upon a previously announced weighting. The Chief Reader (a college or university faculty member selected by the Educational Testing Service and The College Board) then meets with members of ETS and sets the cutoff scores for each AP Grade. The Chief Reader's decision is based upon what percentage of students earned each AP Grade over the previous three years, how students did on multiple-choice questions that are used on the test from year to year, how he or she viewed the overall quality of the answers to the free response questions, how university students who took the exam as part of experimental studies did, and how students performed on different parts of the exam. No one outside of this is ETS is allowed to find out a student's raw score on an AP Exam and the cutoff scores for a particular exam are only released to the public if that particular exam is released in total (this happens on a staggered schedule and occurs approximately once every five years for each exam). The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale:

* 5: Extremely well-qualified
* 4: Well-qualified
* 3: Qualified
* 2: Possibly qualified
* 1: No recommendation

University Credit

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. grant credits or advanced placement based on AP grades; those in over twenty other countries do likewise. Policies vary by institution, but most schools require a score of 3 or higher on any given exam for credit to be granted or course prerequisites to be waived. Colleges may also take AP grades into account when deciding which students to accept, though this is not part of the official AP program.

Grading of Exams

The AP exams are graded each summer at a week-long "grading camp." Both high school AP teachers and university professors are invited to grade the exams and these graders are given remuneration (estimated sum, about $2,200dubious), free travel, and free food to spend seven hours a day for six days in small groups (a "table") of 14-16 readers who grade students' exams. Each table is headed by a more experienced grader, who periodically re-reads some exams for quality control.

Notes and References

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