Racial Comparisons in Advanced Placement Test Scores

In 2009 Advanced Placement examinations were taken by more than 122,000 African-American high school students. The exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 5 on the AP exam is equivalent to receiving a grade of A in a similar college course. An AP test score of 4 is equivalent to a college grade of B, and so on down the line. Students scoring 3 or above on the AP test are deemed qualified to receive college credit.

Nationwide, the mean AP score for white students is 3.02; for blacks it is 1.94. This means that the average black score is a full letter grade below the average white score. This gap has widened slightly in the past several years.

In 2009, of the nearly 1.7 million AP exams taken by white students, a qualifying grade of 3 or above was achieved on 64 percent of the tests. Blacks received qualifying grades of 3 or above on only 27.1 percent of the AP exams that they took. Thus, whites were more than twice as likely as blacks to receive a qualifying grade.

At the very highest level of AP test scores, the black-white scoring gap is even greater. Some 15.8 percent of white test takers received a score of 5, equivalent to a college grade of A. Only 3.5 percent of black test takers received a score of 5. Blacks, who took 6.5 percent of all AP tests, made up only 3 percent of all students who became eligible for college credit and only 1.5 percent of all students with the highest score of 5.