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Advanced Placement Testing


Board Report presented on December 15, 2014.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses provide the opportunity for students to participate in challenging course work that allows them to fully pursue interest in a particular subject area. Taken each May by students all over the world, the AP Exam is a measure of a high school student’s mastery of college-level studies in specific academic content areas.

Can All Children Become Calculus Whizzes?

Read an article published by The Atlantic about the increase of rigor in HCPSS classes for younger students in order to increase access to advanced math options in high school.

Howard County Public School System encourages high school students to explore the more than 30 course offerings available in a wide variety of topics, including art, computer science, English, mathematics, music, science, social studies, and world languages. Participation in the AP program builds confidence in the ability to perform college level work by improving study habits, writing skills, and problem solving.

As part of the HCPSS focus on college and career readiness, every sophomore and junior in HCPSS takes the PSAT in the fall of each school year. Schools may then use the PSAT AP Potential index to identify students who may succeed in AP courses. Teachers are encouraged to “talent-spot” students and to invite them to consider AP courses. Teachers and other school staff collaborate on strategies to improve AP participation and performance.

Each AP exam is scored using a five-point scale. According to the College Board, which owns and administers the AP program, an exam score of 3 or higher is a strong predictor of a student’s ability to succeed in college and earn a degree.

A student earning a score of 3 or higher may receive credit, advanced placement, or both from a college. Most colleges and universities in the United States and institutions in more than 60 other countries grant credit and placement for AP scores or acknowledge these scores in the admission process. When a student enters college with credit already earned through AP, families can save time and money. With this degree jump-start, students may have the flexibility to move into upper-level courses sooner, pursue a double major, study abroad, or finish college sooner.


The 2015 AP Exams will be administered over two weeks in May: May 4–8 and May 11–15. (Full schedule)

Most exams are two to three hours long. The first part of the exam usually consists of multiple-choice questions. The second part of the exam usually consists of free-response questions that require students to generate their own responses.

Students must be prepared with supplies such as No. 2 pencils for a multiple-choice answer sheet, pens with black or dark blue ink for completing free-response questions in most exams, and a government-issued or school-issued photo I.D. Calculators may also be needed for some exams in mathematics, science, and statistics.

Data Results

The most recent national results are presented in the 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation. Maryland-specific results are available in the state supplement to the report. The report also looks at the past 10 years of participation and performance in AP.

The Maryland Report Card provides detailed achievement and other student data for the state, each Maryland county, and HCPSS, including data for the AP and other assessments.

HCPSS AP test results for 2014 are provided in the Dec. 15, 2014 Board Report.