ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) PROGRAM
The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a curriculum in the United States and Canada sponsored by the College Board which offers standardized courses to high school students that are generally recognized to be equivalent to undergraduate courses in college. Participating colleges grant credit to students who obtained high enough scores on the exams to qualify.
AP tests are scored on a 1 to 5 scale as follows:
•5 - Extremely well qualified
•4 - Well qualified
•3 - Qualified
•2 - Possibly qualified
•1 - No recommendation
Grading the AP exam is a long and complicated process. The multiple choice component of the exam is scored by computer, while the free response and essay portions are scored by trained Readers at the AP Reading each June. The scores on various components are weighted and combined into a raw Composite Score. The Chief Reader for each exam then decides on the grade cutoffs for that year's exam, which determine how the Composite Scores are converted into the final grades. During the process a number of reviews and statistical analyses are performed to ensure that the grading is reliable. The overall goal is for the grades to reflect an absolute scale of performance which can be compared from year to year.
Some colleges use AP test scores to exempt students from introductory coursework. Each college's policy is different, but most require a minimum score of 3 or 4 to receive college credit. Typically this appears as a "CR" grade on the college transcript, although some colleges and universities will award an A grade for a 5 score. Some foreign countries, such as Germany, that do not offer general admission to their universities and colleges for holders of an American high school diploma without lengthy preparatory courses will directly admit students that have completed a specific set of AP tests, depending on the subject they wish to study there.
Beginning with the May 2011 AP Exam administration, there was a change to the way AP Exams are scored. Total scores on the multiple-choice section are now based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points are no longer deducted for incorrect answers and, as was the case before, no points are awarded for unanswered questions.