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In-Depth Analysis of Data from the College Board's Fall AP Exam Ordering Pilot

Spoiler Alert: The Failure-Rate of Low-Income Students Markedly Increases When Requiring Students to Order AP Exams in the Fall

The College Board's published data regarding their 2018 pilot confirms what survey respondents have been saying . . .
a Mandated Fall AP Exam Ordering Deadline is not in the best interest of students.

The College Board (CB) recently published a web page explaining why they are changing to a Fall AP Exam Ordering Deadline,, (ATTENTION! when we checked the College Board's site on March 7, 2019 this page has been removed, please find a screen shot of this page taken on Feb 2, 2019 here) for all students at all schools beginning the 2019-2020 school year. The following analysis uses only data provided by the CB. The CB's data is missing some key, known pieces of data: more years, score data for all students, enrollment data, etc., but the analysis is the best that can be done with the data provided.

The following data table has been constructed using the data provided on the CB's page and from data found in the last 3 years of AP Exam Data

Year Students Enrolled
in AP Classes
Pilot Schools
Test Takers
Test Takers
Scores of 3+
Test Takers
(Low-Inc. /All )
Test Takers
Scores of 3+
(Low-Inc. 3+/All Low-Inc.)
Test Takers
Test Takers
Scores of 3+
All Schools
All Test Takers
Scores of 3+
2016 ? 26,943 (?%) ? (?%) 8,025 (29.8%) 3,363 (41.9%) 10,210 (37.9%) ? (?%) 2,835,307 (58.7%)
2017 ? 29,355 (?%) ? (?%) 9,383 (32.9%) 3,726 (39.7%) 11,497 (39.2%) ? (?%) 2,990,532 (58.7%)
2018 40,000 33,279 (83.2%) ? (?%) 12,524 (37.6%) 4,468 (35.7%) 13,862 (41.6%) ? (?%) 3,133,758 (59.7%)

Comparing Students in the CB's 2018 Pilot to Students Not in the Pilot

How does one evaluate whether or not a Fall AP Exam Order Deadline (schools in the pilot) benefits students?

It seems fitting to compare the achievement of students in the pilot to the achievement of all students at all schools.

In regards to AP Exams, how does one evaluate student achievement?

The AP exams are scored 1-5. A score of 3, 4 or 5 may earn a student college credit or placement into a higher level course for their AP course/exam while a score of 1 or 2 does not earn college credit or advanced placement.

How do the scores of the students in the pilot compare to all the students taking AP exams?

The CB has provided data for schools in the pilot. The score data was provided for "Low-Income Students", but not for any other groups. Comparing the graphs on the right one can ascertain that the pass-rate for Low-Income Students has decreased (failure-rate has increased) from 2016 to 2018 with a greater decrease in pilot year, 2018. In the meantime, the pass-rate for All Students at All Schools has increased during the same time period. In 2018, the failure-rate for Low-Income Students in the Pilot is 1.6 times greater than the failure-rate of All Students at All Schools.

Does the data confirm the College Board's statement: "When students commit to the exam from day one, they invest themselves in their classes, teaming with their teacher and classmates to do the daily work needed to earn a score on the AP Exam that qualifies for college credit and/or placement."

All the test takers in the pilot ordered their AP exams in the fall, much earlier than the pilot schools required students to order their exams in the past. Unfortunately the failure rate for low-income students at pilot schools (the only group the College Board provided score data for) increased by 4.0%, twice the increase in the failure rate as the previous year. The failure rate for all AP students at all schools decreased by 1.0% for the same year. The data indicates that having students commit to the exam earlier does not lead to an increase in students earning scores that qualify them for college credit and/or Elements, but in fact leads to a decline in passing scores.

A Fall Commitment to Taking the Exam Results in Increase in Failures

In the pilot schools, there was an increase 3141 low-income test takers and an increase of 742 low-income test takers scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam. This means there were 2399 more low-income test takers that failed the exam with a score of 1 or 2. The failure rate for the additional low-income exams is 76.4% (2399/3141). A fall exam ordering deadline does not result in more commitment and success on the exam.

AP Exam Failure Rate of Students in Fall Ordering Pilot and All Students

AP Exam Passing Rate of Students in Fall Ordering Pilot and All Students
AP Exam Takers
Scores of 3+ (Passing)
Scores of 1 or 2 (Not Passing)
All Students
All Students Taking AP Exams Data  not provided by College Board Data  not provided by College Board
Underrepresented Minority Students
Underrepresented Minority Students taking AP Exams Data  not provided by College Board Data  not provided by College Board
Low‑Income Students
Low-Income Students taking AP Exams Low-Income Students receiving scores of 3+ Low Income Students receiving a scores of 1 or 2
AP Exam Takers
Scores of 3+ (Passing)
Scores of 1 or 2 (Not Passing)

Pilot Questions

  • What was the criteria used to select schools for the pilot?
  • What schools were in the pilot?
  • Which states had schools in the pilot?
  • Did the pilot schools statistically represent all schools offering AP: number of exams, number of low income students, number of underrepresented minorities, etc.?
  • Where's the rest of the score data?
    • Pass-rate for Underrepresented minorities
    • Pass-rate for All Students
  • Where's the data for other groups?
    • Majority Students
    • Non-Underrepresented Minorities
    • Females
    • Males
  • Why weren't more years included in the data?
  • How many students were assessed late fees and cancellation fees?

General Questions

  • Can a student learn and be challenged without taking the AP Exam?
  • Should a student who will not receive college credit for their AP Exam be required to take the exam?
  • Is financial coercion an acceptable way to motivate students within education?
  • What is the primary purpose of the AP Exams?
  • Should schools carry the burden of paying for exams that students do not show for?
  • Should the federal government/states/districts/schools subsidize the exam fee for students who do not wish to take exams?
  • Is it appropriate to require a student to make a decision on whether or not to take the AP exam in the fall when the student is paying for the exam?