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Public High School Students Taking Advanced Placement Exams (Percent)

State Indicator S-12

Participation in the Advanced Placement (AP) program provides a measure of the extent to which a rigorous curriculum is available to and used by high school students. This indicator represents the percentage of students in the graduating class who have taken one or more AP Exams at any point in their high school career. Research shows that performance on AP Exams is one of the best predictors of success in college.

More than 30 different AP Exams are offered each spring by the College Board for a fee. The exams include a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. Generally, students who take AP Exams have completed a rigorous course of study in a specific subject area in high school with the expectation of obtaining college credit or advanced placement. English Language and Composition, U.S. History, and English Literature and Composition are among the most frequently taken AP Exams. The data show the number of public high school students taking at least one AP Exam has risen considerably from 645,000 for the class of 2006 to 1.1 million students in the class of 2016.

Recognizing that cost may be an impediment to taking the test, the College Board provides a partial fee waiver to qualified low-income students. Since 1997, many states and municipalities have started partially or fully subsidizing the cost of taking the test. Some of this subsidy is from the federal Department of Education. According to the College Board, over 45,000 low-income students in 1999 used a combination of federal funding and College Board fee reductions to eliminate or greatly reduce the AP Exam fee; this figure rose to more than 450,000 in 2016.

Data sources: College Board, Advanced Placement Report to the Nation; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics.

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NA = not available.

NOTES: The national total for the United States for Advanced Placement data is the value reported by the College Board and does not include U.S. territories. The national graduate total for the United States includes U.S. territories and estimates for nonreporting states; the value for 2014 is an NCES projection.

SOURCE: College Board, Advanced Placement Report to the Nation and AP Cohort Data (various years), data as of June 2015; National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics (various years), data as of February 2017.

Recommended Citation: National Science Board. “Public High School Students Taking Advanced Placement Exams.” Science and Engineering Indicators: State Indicators. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Accessed on [date of user access].

Last updated: January 18, 2018