Do Advanced Placement Courses Give You an Advantage in College?


Does taking Advanced Placement courses in high school give you an advantage once you’re actually in college?  To answer that question, The College Board conducted two studies, which shows that students who took A.P. classes in high school fared much better than their peers who took regular high school courses.

The study was actually conducted by researchers at the University of Texas, but was paid for by the College Board.  College Board, if you recall, runs the Advanced Placement program and testing. Results of the study were released today.

Experts who have analyzed the reports, have thus far come to the conclusion that there is some correlation between success in A.P. classes and doing well in college.  However, they do state that the reports did not prove any kind of a cause-and-effect tie.  Others have cautioned that A.P. programs typically attract highly-motivated students, and that it might be difficult to determine whether their success in college is due to experience gained from A.P. classes, or if it’s just a result of their extraordinary personal ambition, parents’ education, extra tutoring available to financially well-off families, or other factors.

The first study tracked freshman students at the University of Texas who scored well on AP exams and skipped intro. level college courses.  They were then compared with other U of T students who had similar high school grades and admissions test scores, but never took A.P. courses.  This study found that those who took A.P. classes in high school earned higher grade point averages than those who did not.

The other study watched Texas students that enrolled in any Texas public higher education institution.  What this study found was that, again, students who took A.P. classes in high school earned higher GPAs than those who did not take A.P. classes in high school, and were more likely to graduate within four years.  The study also found some differences between A.P. students themselves.  Those who took the optional A.P. Final Exams fared better than A.P. students who skipped these exams.

I think I am going to side with the experts on this.  While it’s clear there is a correlation, how can you really say whether students are doing better because they took A.P. classes, or whether it’s because they are more motivated and bright?

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