AUSTIN, Texas—The benefits of Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams have been confirmed in the largest-ever study of the effects of AP on college success. The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board conducted the study of 222,289 students at several Texas universities.
"Advanced Placement" are classes and tests that cover the kinds of material offered in a college introductory course, and they are available to high school students who hope to get a head start in college. If a student earns a qualifying grade on one of the three-hour AP tests—and there are AP exams in more than 30 different subjects—the student is able to earn college credits and/or skip the introductory class corresponding to the AP subject.
Department of Educational Psychology faculty members Barbara Dodd and Linda Hargrove, along with Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board researcher Donn Godin, found that students who successfully participated in one or more AP tests and courses "significantly outperformed" their non-AP peers. These comparisons were made among peers with similar levels of academic ability and family economic status. Students who took one or more AP tests and courses had higher college GPAs, earned more credit hours and were more likely to graduate in four years or fewer.
"The findings indicate," says Hargrove, "that even if an AP student who took the course and exam scores two out of a possible five points on an AP test—and most universities require at least a score of three—they still tend to do better in college than students who don’t take AP courses or who skip the AP exam. The data also suggest that AP students perform better in college than similar students who take dual enrollment college classes while still in high school."
A separate University of Texas at Austin study of 24,941 students conducted by Dodd and Department of Educational Psychology graduate student Leslie Keng showed that students who placed out of introductory college courses and used their AP credits to take more advanced courses did better in those courses than non-AP students. The study accounted for differences in ability levels of the AP and non-AP students by matching high school rank and college admission test scores.
The studies were released as part of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Report to the Nation and represent the most comprehensive, data-rich examination of AP in the past decade.