A Dream Deferred | HBCU Conference 2024

What’s New in AP?

In front of a packed audience at the A Dream Deferred™ 2024 conference, Jennifer Mulhern, vice president of AP access and implementation, gave two highlights of what’s in store for the near future in AP: more project based learning and more AP Exams going digital.

Attendees at A Dream Deferred

Where We’ve Been and Where We Are Now

Looking back at where the AP Program is now and how it’s arrived there, Mulhern pointed to research showing that taking even one or two AP courses has a positive impact on students’ college success and completion rates (although it’s important to note that research also shows that the concrete benefits of taking AP level off after around five courses). For that reason, the program is using the success of its AP Computer Science Principles course to inform many of the steps it’s taking now to make sure as many students as possible can participate and succeed in AP.

Thanks to the foundational course launched in 2016, more students, including those traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, are learning and becoming excited about computer science. Mulhern explained that this course has appealed to so many because it’s project based—meaning students build knowledge and skills through investigation of complex, real-world problems—it’s career-relevant, and it gives students the opportunity to develop an app on a topic of their choosing.

Three of the newest AP courses—AP Seminar, AP Precalculus, and AP African American Studies—are similarly designed to broaden access to a more diverse group of students. The AP Program is supporting schools and districts that offer these new courses through free educator demos, professional learning opportunities, course resources for teachers, and customizable templates for teacher, parent, and student communications.

What’s Coming: Project Based Learning

Mulhern shared that AP’s fastest-growing courses feature a project component. Findings from Lucas Education Research show that project based learning methods, coupled with professional learning for educators, significantly improve student performance on AP Exams.

Currently, the AP Program supports teachers using projects to provide instruction in AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP Environmental Science and is developing ways to expand this to three additional courses. Meanwhile, AP Exams with project based assessments have gone from 1% in 2013 to 7% of total exam volume in 2023. Seven courses, including AP Computer Science Principles and AP Seminar, use projects as part of a student’s AP Exam, and AP is moving forward with pilots in six additional courses.

What’s Coming: Digital AP Exams

Finally, Mulhern announced that more AP Exams will be moving to digital in the future. Many schools have already transitioned to digital AP testing, administering more than 350,000 digital AP Exams in May 2022 and May 2023. For May 2024 testing, about a third of AP Computer Science Principles and AP Seminar exams will be digital, along with almost a quarter of all AP English and history exams.

Digital AP Exams have the same general format as their previous paper versions. The number of sections, number and type of questions, timing, and weighting isn’t changing for digital exams. Scores will continue to be comparable, regardless of which version of the exam students take. Digital exams are proctored and administered in school on the same schedule as paper exams.

Beginning with the May 2025 exam administrations, these nine AP Exams will go fully digital:

  • AP African American Studies
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP European History
  • AP Psychology
  • AP Seminar
  • AP U.S. History
  • AP World History: Modern

Each year, AP will announce the exam subjects that will go digital in the next school year, and the official digital exam list for May 2026 will be shared in early 2025.