A.P. Program

The Advanced Placement Program, commonly known as Advanced Placement, or AP, is a United States and Canada-based program that offers high school students the opportunity to receive university credit for their work during high school, as well as a standard measure of achievement in a particular course.

In May 1951, a group of educators from three of America's elite prep schools (Phillips Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy, and the Lawrenceville School) and three of the country's most prestigious colleges (Harvard University, Princeton University, and Yale University) convened to discuss the best use of the final two years of high school and the first two years of college. This committee published a final report, General Education in School and College (Harvard University Press, 1952), which led to the establishment of the AP Exams.

The not-for-profit College Board, which has run the program since 1955, develops and maintains courses in various subject areas, supports those who teach the courses, supports universities as they define their policies related to AP grades, and develops and coordinates the administration of annual AP examinations. These activities are funded through fees charged to students taking AP Exams.

In 2002, over one million high school students participated in AP courses; over 90% of them took the corresponding AP exam. Many high schools offer AP courses, though the College Board allows the home-schooled and others who have not taken a course at a high school to take the exam. Exams cost $82 each. Until the 2005 exams, exams in the same category could be taken together and only paid for once. For example, both economics, or both physics, or both government exams, for $82 per set. Starting in 2006, each exam costs $82. (It should be noted that even though the exams cost $82, some schools raise the cost of the exam by almost $30 to cover proctor expenses, while others lower the cost of the exam with subsidies.) Financial aid is still available for students with demonstrated need.

AP tests are scored differently from the common A-F grading scale common in the United States. They are scored on a numeric scale, 1 to 5, with the following general meanings:

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

These scorings are used by some colleges to exempt students from introductory coursework if they demonstrate mastery through an AP test. Each college's policy is different, but most accept scores of 4 or 5, and some accept scores of 3.

In some high schools with an exam exemption policy, an AP Exam can be taken in place of the school's final exam and the final grade given to the student in that case is the final quarter/semester grade without the exam. The AP exam is rarely used as a course grade because the AP exam scores only come out in mid-July.

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