The Large Racial Gap in Advanced Placement Examination Scores

AP-thumbThe College Board has released its tenth annual report on participation in the Advanced Placement program. This year’s report examined the performance of students in the high school graduating Class of 2013.

College admissions officers are impressed with the records of students who make the extra effort and take the grading risk in AP courses. Now, presented with a transcript that shows a student has faced up to these rigorous programs of study, admissions officers often confer a deserved advantage in the admissions process to students of all races who enroll in AP programs. Some, higher education institutions give college credit for students who successfully complete AP courses. But the number of colleges offering credit for high achieving students in AP courses has dwindled in recent years.

African Americans in the high school Class of 2013 took 266,001 Advanced Placement tests. This was nearly 7 percent of all AP tests administered to students in the Class of 2013.

AP 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 to have successfully completed the AP course.

For the Class of 2013, the average score on AP examinations for African American students was 2.03. For all students the average score was 2.87. For White students the average score was a full point (or equivalent to a full letter grade) higher than the average score for Black students.

Of the 266,001 AP exams taken by Black students, only 29.7 percent achieved a passing grade of 3 or above. For Whites the figure was 64.7 percent. Only 3.6 percent of AP examinations taken by African American students received the top score of 5, demonstrating a mastery of the college-level subject matter. For Whites the figure was 14.8 percent.


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