By Brendan Sherwood
If you’ve ever taken an Advanced Placement course, you know how difficult they can be and how expensive their exams are. This is why most students don’t take or pass them. But despite these obstacles, more high school students are passing at least one AP exam before graduating. “We see an increase each year,” Luis Santiago, director of undergraduate admissions at Marist College, said.
The College Board, who administers the AP exams, recently created a state-by-state report of AP exam statistics. Maryland was the top performing state on the AP exams with 23.4% of its students passing at least one AP exam. According to the Washington Post, Maryland’s superintendent of schools Nancy Grasmick said “there is a huge effort being put forth across the state.” “She said that 13 of the state’s 24 systems have 30 percent or more of their students participating in AP.” This reflects a trend of schools widening access to AP courses, making them more mainstream and less elite. Other states following this trend include Maine, Vermont, Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, New York, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California. Click here for a map of past AP test statistics.
While more students are passing AP exams in some areas, black and Hispanic students are still less likely to pass an AP exam. According to The New York Times, “over all, black students made up 14 percent of last year’s graduates, but only 7.4 of those taking an A.P. exam, and only 3.3 percent of those passing one.” The College Board’s report listed California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas as leaders in helping black and Hispanic students.
The performance gap is a problem because of the advantages AP tests can give students. The College Board’s study showed that students who take AP courses do better in college and those who take the exam do even better. Santiago said that students with AP credits are slightly more likely to be accepted to Marist because an AP credit “definitely strengthens their core curriculum, which is one of the things we’re looking for.” He added that AP courses can relate to college performance because of the advanced preparation that comes from studying at a college level. AP preparation is also one of the things that give Marist College a very good retention rate. The tests can also give students a financial advantage because passing the AP exam means a student doesn’t need to take a class in that subject.