Academic journal article College Student Journal

Follow-Up of Advanced Placement Students in College

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Follow-Up of Advanced Placement Students in College

Article excerpt

For over five decades, Advanced Placement (AP) courses have provided demanding college-level coursework in high school. Few studies have followed AP students in college by comparing their successes to the successes of other high achieving students. The present study examined college grade point averages (GPA) of high achieving college students in natural science and English courses. The results supported the hypothesis that AP students would rate the benefit of their high school AP courses higher than the benefit of their general education courses. However, findings contradicted expectations that AP students would earn significantly higher college grades when their grades were compared to those of other high achieving students. Likewise AP students did not rate the benefit of their high school courses higher than did their high achieving peers who did not take AP courses.


High achieving high school students can foster their skills by enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) courses that challenge them with demanding coursework (Bernholc, Baenen, & Howell, 2000). Throughout the United States many high school students are currently enrolled in AP courses, and some are receiving college credits (Bernholc et al., 2000; Riley et al., 2000; Santoli, 2002). Supporters believe that AP courses permit high achieving students to reach their highest potential because AP courses give students the opportunity to study subjects they are interested in at a challenging level with other high achieving students (Bernholc et al., 2000) and with experienced teachers with advanced degrees (Thomas, 1991).

According to DiYanni (2002), the AP program began as a pilot project in 1951 at Kenyon College. The first AP examinations were developed soon after in the 1953-54 academic year. The College Board officially took over the AP program and offered their first AP examinations in May 1956. The AP program quickly grew, and by 1960, the College Board offered five times the original number of examinations. In 1960, approximately 10,000 examinations were given, and by 2002, approximately 1.5 million AP examinations were taken by students (DiYanni, 2002). A Newsweek article reports that 1,173,000 students were scheduled to take 2,050,000 AP exams in May of 2005 (Mathews, 2005).

Although AP classes are widely available, they are not available at every American high school. Reportedly, over 40% of high schools do not offer any AP courses (Bernholc et al., 2000). A recent report, Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 2002-2003, stated that 33% of public high schools do not offer AP courses (Waits, Setzer, Lewis, & Greene, 2005).

Morgan and Ramist (1998) and Camara, Dorans, Morgan, and Myford (2000) report that grade equivalency studies compare college students' grades in introductory courses to students' performance on AP examinations. This comparison allows the College Board to confirm that the grading scale of AP students is congruent with college standards. AP exams are scored on a scale from 1 to 5 points (Bernholc et al., 2000); with a score of 3 typically earning college credit.

Horn and Kojaku (2001) completed a longitudinal study using a survey with 4-year college students who entered into their first academic year in 1995-96. They found that 19% of 4-year college students completed rigorous high school training and took at least one AP course. Horn and Kojaku (2001) reported that many high schools begin AP programs to instill rigorous courses. They also reported that students who completed these more rigorous curriculums in high school were more likely to have stayed at their initial college and stayed on track to a bachelor's degree. Curry, MacDonald, and Morgan (1999) stated that three-fourths of students who earned a score of 3 or higher on their AP examinations in 1997 went on to obtain advanced college degrees. Morgan and Manechshana (2000) reported that AP students were more likely than others to get their degrees within 4 years. …

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