The Racial Scoring Gap on Advanced Placement Examinations

Last week JBHE reported the large increase in the number of black students taking Advanced Placement courses. But even better news is that of the 94,556 AP exams taken by black students in 2006, grades of 3 or above, which qualify test takers for college credit, were received on 25,210 tests. It is encouraging that such a large number of black high school students are achieving such good success in college-level courses.

However, black students’ performance on AP tests still remains far below that of white students. Nationwide the mean AP score for white students was 2.96; for blacks it was 1.96. This means that the average black score is a full letter grade below the average white score. Regrettably, too, the gap has widened slightly in the past several years.

In 2006, of the 1,046,590 AP exams taken by white students, a qualifying grade of 3 or above was achieved on 62.4 percent of the tests. Blacks received qualifying grades of 3 or above on only 26.7 percent of the AP exams that they took. Thus, whites were more than twice as likely as blacks to receive a qualifying grade. Over the past two years the percentage of all black test takers receiving qualifying grades dropped from 29.2 percent to 26.7 percent.

At the very highest level of AP test scores, the black-white scoring gap is even greater. Some 13.1 percent of white test takers received a score of 5, equivalent to a college grade of A. Only 2.9 percent of black test takers received a score of 5. Blacks, who took 5.6 percent of all AP tests, made up only 2.6 percent of all students who became eligible for college credit and only 1.3 percent of all students with the highest score of 5.