Number of AP Test Takers Has Nearly Doubled Since 2001

The number of high-school seniors who took at least one Advanced Placement examination before graduating has almost doubled since 2001, according to the College Board’s annual AP report, released on Wednesday.

In 2010, 853,314 graduating seniors at public high schools had taken at least one AP exam. That’s an increase of more than 55,000 students since 2009.

The number of students who performed well on the exams—a score of 3 or better—is also up from 2009. In the Class of 2010, 16.9 percent of graduates met that mark on at least one AP exam, a slight increase from 16 percent in 2009. And 12,705 public schools had AP students in 2010, an increase of 165 schools over the year before.

AP scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest and 3 predicting success in college-level coursework, according to the College Board.

The report stresses the importance of mathematics and science exams and cites data from the Harvard Education Press that show that students who take AP math or science exams are more likely than their peers to earn degrees in related fields.

“We need to make sure that we’re building the strongest math and science programs in high school so we can really fortify students for what they will experience in college,” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board.

However, disparities in students’ scores on math and science exams show that many schools struggle to prepare students for AP exams in those areas. Although more than 70 percent of test takers in AP Calculus BC, Computer Science AB, and Physics C: Mechanics received a score of 3 or higher, more than 30 percent of test takers in AP Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, Computer Science A, and Environmental Science exams received a 1.

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