College Board Releases AP Scores: Increase in Average, Tests Taken

Matthew Liu, Opinion Managing Editor

July 7, 2018. Students nervously log into their College Board accounts, anxiously waiting for the website to load. Then, their scores pop up on the screen, and their faces either light up in excitement, realizing they have passed their exams, or they slink away questioning the value of that year-long course.

Scores from the May 2018 Advanced Placement (AP) test administrations revealed improvements in scores for certain tests as well as an increase in the amount of AP tests given to students.

For the 2017-18 school year, 551 RHS students took AP tests, AP coordinator Lisa Gerhardt said. For some of those tests, significant improvements in scores were seen.

“The AP Government & Politics exam saw the largest increase in the number of RHS students who passed,” Gerhardt said. “The percentage of 3s, 4s and 5s for that exam went from 64 to 70 percent in one year. The teachers and curriculum for that class did not change, meaning teachers did a great job of making sure students knew the material.”

Teachers who taught the AP Government & Politics course for the previous school year agreed.

“[Ms. Pettit and I] analyzed the data and determined that students really needed to focus on improving their Free Response Questions (FRQs),” AP Government & Politics teacher Elizabeth Seabreeze said. “So, for last year, we focused our teaching on emphasizing skills that are necessary to do well on those FRQs. It seems like the exam scores improved a lot as a result.”

Of all AP tests given to RHS students last year, the exams with the highest pass rates were AP Statistics, Calculus AB, Computer Science Principles and Government & Politics, with 83, 80, 77 and 70 percent of students passing those exams, respectively.

The amount of AP tests given to students has gone up in the past few years, which may be because of the students’ increased awareness of the value of the exams.

“Two years ago, we gave around 700 exams. Last year, that number was at approximately 900, and this year we’re projecting to give more than 1,000 exams,” Gerhardt said. “I think students have started to realize that AP exams are essential for being college and career ready. Also, there is a financial incentive for passing the exams–if they get college credit, they’ll save money by not having to take those classes in college.”

AP exam questions are “written solely by the college faculty who teach college courses that correspond to a particular AP course,” according to the College Board website. Hence, students who take these tests must study to face the challenge of earning a 3, 4 or 5, all of which are considered passing, on these college-level exams.

“I got a 5 on all three of my exams, those being AP Physics, Language & Composition and Calculus AB,” senior Jarrett Clark said. “Of those, the hardest was the Physics exam, but I studied a lot and worked with my friends to make sure I got a 5 on it.”

Many students naturally wonder what is the best way to get high marks on AP exams. Clark has advice.

“Pay attention in class, but don’t stress out if you see something on the test that you didn’t go over,” Clark said. “I got confused by some questions on my tests, but I still got 5s.”