New Changes for AP Classes Give Wealthy Students an Advantage

The College Board is changing the date that students need to register for the AP exams from March back to November.  While 4 months may not seem like a big deal, it really is. In November of a school year, the students are just getting into the subject matter and they don’t have a sense for how well they might do on the big AP exam that is taken in May. They’ll have to pay the $94 for the exam, and if they miss the registration deadline, they’ll have to pay an additional $40.  Then, say in March, they realize that they’re not doing well in the class, they would then have to pay yet another $40 to cancel the May exam.  Students who take the AP courses are not required to take the AP exams – they get a course grade that is not tied to the College Boards AP exams.

For wealthy students, these additional fees won’t affect their decisions about taking the exams. Most go to schools where teachers offer study sessions after school and on weekends, and others hire tutors to prepare them for the big test. They can wait until the last minute and cancel the tests.  But for low-income students, they may be more likely to miss the registration deadline, and then also need to cancel the test if they don’t think they’ll do well on it in May.  Most can’t afford AP tutoring and many teachers in these low-income schools don’t offer the same quality of preparation that the upper-income schools do. In the past, over 75% of low-income students don’t pass the AP tests (they scored 1-2; 3-5 is passing).

Instead of taking AP courses, students would learn more and get real college credits by taking a course from the local community college.  They’ll spend the semester learning concepts and engaging in the material instead of wasting 8 months memorizing terms and preparing for one AP exam in May. While in theory, AP courses offers hire caliber material, students are forced to drill down and regurgitate a set amount of material. They spend the whole school year preparing the test, which limits class discussions and teacher creativity.  

It’s unethical to bump back the registration date to November when students are just beginning to learn the concepts.  This hurts all students but especially low-income students because they will probably forgo taking the exams altogether.