Taking Just One AP Course Can Increase College Success, New Research Finds

Policymakers around the country are studying new ideas that can help more students prepare for the academic demands of college.

A high-quality option involves expanding the availability of challenging coursework in high schools – including increasing the number of Advanced Placement courses.

New research from the College Board and Princeton University reveals just how valuable access to that sort of coursework can be. InStudying the Relationships Between the Number of APs, AP Performance, and College Outcomes, the authors show that the biggest predicted boost in first-year college grades and on-time graduation is related to increased participation in AP. The largest gains were seen in students who took either their first or second AP course.

The students who completed one AP course and the accompanying exam were three percentage points more likely to graduate from college within four years, while students who took an AP Exam and scored 3 or higher were six percentage points more likely to graduate from college within four years than similar students who took no AP Exams at all.

Those improvements were observed across under-represented minority, first-generation, and lower-achieving student groups.

Policymakers interested in exploring the expansion of AP programs in their states can consult “The Power of One AP Course on College Outcomes,” a new policy brief from the College Board. Among the options are:

  • Providing funding to schools with no AP courses so all students have access to at least one AP course
  • Creating incentives, such as covering exam costs for all students’ first AP Exam
  • Expanding the use of the AP Potential tool to help identify students who’ve shown they’re ready to take an AP course

The policy brief can be downloaded below.


The Power of One AP Course on College Outcomes
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