Advanced Placement Program (APP)

While great emphasis has been placed on the need to accommodate students experiencing difficulty in American high schools, traditionally, less importance has been attached to assisting students at the other end of the spectrum. Gifted students, or those with the ability to rapidly master curriculum content, have usually been left to fend for themselves. One prominent program, however, is well established for these students – The advanced Placement Program (APP).

APP is designed to help advanced students obtain a university credit while still in high school. A high level of cooperation between high schools and universities was needed to initiate such an ambitious concept, but since as long ago as 1951 many worthy students have benefited greatly from the plan. Initially, it was the Ivy League universities along with a number of elite prep schools that were able to generate interest and implement a suitable program. In a paper entitled, “General Education in School and College”, initial curriculum proposals were outlined for courses in a few specific subject areas.

     One of the first subject areas to be approved for an APP credit was American History. It was felt that the students who would most benefit from advanced placement were those with well developed critical analysis and writing skills. Since history students particularly need these kinds of skills, advancement towards a university credit in history seemed to be a natural first choice. The program was gradually expanded over the years following initial implementation. Arrangements were made to allow credits in foreign languages, art, music, and computer science, and today, it is possible for students to obtain advanced university credits under the APP for almost any subject area.

     Critics of APP point to the possibility of abuse, whereby credits would be granted for work that is not completed at university levels and standards. It is felt that high school students would lack maturity and would not be subject to the same rigorous standards that university students face. Security systems are in place, however, and all advanced placement programs fall under the strict control of the College Boards. These Boards define and control policy, develop and administer exams, and provide necessary funding through the collection of student fees. APP is regularly reviewed to ensure that all credits obtained through the program meet the requirements and expectations of normal university courses.

     Recent statistics show that more than one million American students enroll in the AP program each year, and 90% of these take the APP exam. Not all of them reach the required standard for a university credit, of course, but regardless of this, the intense study required to complete the program is useful preparation, and it puts students in a good position for their first year at university.

     Most high schools allow the APP exam in place of the normal high school final exam attached to the regular curriculum. Scoring of APP exams is based on a scale of 1 to 5 rating. Most universities grant a credit for scores of 4 and 5, but they recognize the work done by other candidates as preparation for a first-year university credit. The APP is a worthwhile endeavor, and it should be seriously considered by advanced students who are planning an academic university program.