Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Advanced Placement - Commonplace

Advanced Placement Tests are in full swing and will continue for the next week. Students are sitting tests in subjects ranging from Modern Art History to regular old BC Calculus. These exams although not usually required for entrance to college in the US are now all the rage. Most high school juniors and seniors are now striving to take AP’s that it almost seems as if they are in fact requirements for college admissions. The kids saw their predecessors take them, they know next years' college applicants are taking them and they follow in many cases because they fear that failure to do so would put them at a disadvantage when their stats are reviewed by college reps.

This position enunciated by Duke as to the connection between AP and admission lends support to this view:

"As part of the applicant evaluation process, we assess the degree to which a student has challenged himself/herself academically. We determine the quality and rigor of a student's curriculum in several ways, including the number of AP courses the student has taken. We also use AP Exam results to help us understand a student's academic accomplishments."
It s interesting in light of this that the colleges say that AP’s (in which a grade 4 or 5 can allow you college credit) are not required for admission. The fact is not all schools offer many AP courses and no doubt the colleges will factor this into consideration when assessing an applicant but if a wide range of courses are offered students would be advised to include some in your curriculum.

Given this, it is interesting to note that in some cases having high AP scores does not necessarily qualify you for college credit. At MIT for example, you receive no credit for the College Board AP Biology and Chemistry. If you are to receive credit you must pass MIT's Advanced Placement (Advanced Standing) Examination administered during Orientation. Contrast this with Dartmouth where a grade 5 in AP Biology grants you one unspecified Biology credit. At Duke also you can gain credit with a score of 4 or 5 in AP Biology.

Whatever the credit policy at the various colleges, sitting AP's seems to be standard fare and in view of the fact that it does not guarantee advanced placement in some cases it invites speculation that it is a basic requirement for some introductory courses.

In the case of non-US students the following international exams are comparable to the AP exams.

  • International Baccalaureate
  • GCE Advanced Level
  • German Abitur
  • French Baccalaur√©at
  • Swiss Maturit√©
On the other hand if you are a US student who wishes to matriculate at a university abroad your AP exam results are recognized at many universities worldwide in their admissions process. There are different criteria for admission to international univsersities so the student should get specific information as to the entry requirement and policy as to AP's. In some cases the student might find that AP's are actually required for admission and that SAT 1 and SAT subject tests are insufficient to gain entry.

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