We’ve been writing quite a bit about AP testing of late. To briefly sum up what we think about AP testing, we advise our students at Ivy Coach to take as many AP tests as possible. We advise them to take AP tests in subjects that their high schools don’t even offer and, through our AP test tutoring, our students quite often excel on these tests. It shows college admissions officers at highly selective colleges that our students are naturally gifted and love learning new disciplines — even if their school doesn’t offer courses in these disciplines. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t see major flaws with AP testing. Do we believe that colleges will stop offering credit for AP tests? Yes.
Dartmouth College now officially does not accept any AP test score as the equivalent of college credit. Why? Because they don’t think AP courses are the equivalent of a college-level course. And neither do we. In your high school AP course, do you have to write a twenty-page paper and a couple of ten-pagers? Likely not — because students are too busy studying for the AP exam. Well, many college courses mandate that students write 10 and 20-page papers. So how exactly is this all equivalent? And this is just one example…since we’re summing up our beliefs on the subject.
Anyhow, according to an “ABC News” article, “Dartmouth’s decision comes at a time of rapid growth for Advanced Placement. Some 2 million students took 3.7 million AP tests last spring, figures that have more than doubled in the last decade. In 2011, 18 percent of U.S. high school graduates passed at least one AP exams (by scoring at least a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5), up from 11 percent a decade ago. But the program also has faced criticism that its growing popularity has resulted in watered down courses.” The article by Holly Ramer goes on to say, “Rather than award credit for an introductory course to incoming students who got the highest score on the AP test, the department gave those students a condensed version of the Dartmouth course’s final exam. Ninety percent failed, Tell said. And when those students went on to take the introductory class, they performed no better than those who did not have the high AP test scores.” Well, that just says it all — doesn’t it?
High school courses just aren’t as rigorous as college courses. If you attend a school like Dartmouth, you’re surrounded by smart students. You’re likely not surrounded entirely by smart students in your AP class in high school. There are likely students who won’t be able to get into Ivy League colleges in your AP course in high school. To stand out in a classroom of an Ivy League school, you’ve genuinely got to be exceptional. Such is not the case in high school. It just isn’t. It’s fantastic that some students get to save money towards their college tuition by getting credit for AP courses. But many students don’t save money towards their college tuition through AP courses. Many just get placed into higher level courses (since the AP test gets them out of taking the introductory course). So it can be even harder for students in the end. We’re not saying that the AP program is terrible. We’re just saying that it has some significant flaws that we’ve only touched upon here.