The Huge Racial Divide in Success Rates on AP Examinations

Last week JBHE reported on the huge surge in the number of African Americans taking Advanced Placement courses and examinations. Although the number of black AP students has increased, African Americans continue to have difficulty achieving a passing grade of 3 on the AP scoring scale of 1 to 5. A score of 5 is equivalent to a letter grade of A in a college-level course. A score of 4 is equivalent to a grade of B, and so on.

For blacks in the high school class of 2010, the mean score on AP tests was 1.88. The mean score for whites was 2.95, more than a full letter grade higher than the mean score for blacks.

Of the 173,000 AP tests taken by black members of the class of 2010, a score of 5 was achieved on only 5,180 tests. Whites were nearly five times as likely as blacks to receive a score of 5 on AP tests. Blacks received a score of 4 on about 12,000 tests. So blacks scored the equivalent of either an A or B on only 10.2 percent of all AP tests. In contrast, African Americans received a failing grade of 1 on nearly half of all AP tests, almost three times the rate for whites.