The Racial Scoring Gap on Advanced Placement Tests

The recent increase in black participation in the AP program which JBHE reported last week is encouraging. But even better news is that of the 80,444 AP exams taken by black students in 2005, 22,376 test takers received scores of 3 or above which qualifies them for college credits. It is encouraging that such a large number of black high school students are achieving success in college-level courses.

However, black students’ performance on AP tests still remains far below that of white students.And with a greater pool of black students taking AP examinations in recent years, the racial scoring gap on AP tests has increased.

Nationwide the mean AP score for white students was 2.98; for blacks it was 1.99. This means that the average black score is almost a full letter grade below the average white score. This gap has widened slightly in the past several years.

In 2005, 63.4 percent of the 984,405 white students who took AP exams received a qualifying grade of 3 or above, compared to 27.8 percent of black students. Thus, whites were more than twice as likely as blacks to receive a qualifying grade. Over the past year, the percentage of all black test takers receiving qualifying grades dropped from 29.2 percent to 27.8 percent.

At the very highest level of AP test scores, the black-white scoring gap is even greater. Some 13.5 percent of white test takers received a score of 5, equivalent to a college grade of A. Only 3.0 percent of black test takers received a score of 5.

Blacks, who took 5.2 percent of all AP tests, made up only 2.4 percent of all students who became eligible for college credit and only 1.2 percent of all students with the highest score of 5.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.