College Board: Friend of Foe?


The College Board administers Advanced Placement exams over a two week period in May, causing significant stress amongst students enrolled in the AP curriculum. Photo via the College Board.

Lizzie Quinlivan, Contributing Writer

With May on the horizon, students enrolled in AP courses have begun to prepare for the notorious AP exams. Administered over the course of two weeks in May, the different exams offered cover a wide variety of subjects, with each exam taking up a two to three hours during the school day.

The official organization that creates and scores AP exams as well as the SAT, ACT, and SAT II, is the College Board. The College Board administers AP exams in order to evaluate students’ proficiency in a subject that a student has studied at a college-level throughout the school year. The College Board scores all exams on a 1-5 scale, with a score of 1 representing low proficiency and a score of 5 representing high proficiency in a given subject.

The examination process differs for each course, as some classes are evaluated on year-long projects, while the majority of classes are graded on sit-down exams. The AP Studio Art class is one of the exceptions to the sit-down exam, as enrolled students develop a portfolio composed of artwork from throughout the year and eventually submit photographs of their pieces for evaluation. Similarly, the new AP Seminar course members prepare a portfolio composed of writing assignments and filmed presentations. However, AP Seminar students are also required to take a sit-down exam like most classes.

Current AP Seminar student senior Charlie James, believes that “the College Board has too many requirements for the AP Seminar exam. I think that we shouldn’t have to take an exam if we spend all year working on a portfolio.”

Despite the stress associated with AP exams, the College Board does offer high scoring students the opportunity to receive college credit in a given subject, which can excuse them from taking college courses in that area of study if proficiency is demonstrated. For the most part, colleges only accept scores of 3, which represents average proficiency, or above in place of college courses. Fortunately, it appears that most Hingham High School students have no trouble achieving these high scores.

According to the 2017 graduating class College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), approximately 42% of the class of 2017 participated in AP curriculum and took at least one AP exam throughout their high school career.

Altogether, the class of 2017 took a total of 22 AP exams covering different subjects. Of these 22 exams taken, all students achieved a score of 3 or higher in 6 exams, while roughly 90% of students who took the other exams achieved a score of 3 or higher. With the exception of the AP Physics C E&M exam, Hingham’s percentile of students who scored above a 3 on the exam was well above the state and national averages.

Despite Hingham’s history of achievement in AP exams, students are still under a significant amount of pressure to succeed. Junior Lily Deneen, who is enrolled in multiple AP courses, says “I am really stressed about my exams, especially since they are just a week apart from each other. But I do like the way that the College Board evenly distributes the exams across the two week period so that I do not have multiple exams on the same day or on consecutive days. It really minimizes my stress about the time I have to prepare for each exam.”

On top of the stress that students experience in the weeks leading up to these exams, the College Board has changed a policy this year which can been an inconvenience for many. Every year, each individual AP exam requires a fee, which has been $85 in the past. However, the price has suddenly increased to $94 per exam just this year.

Although this increase is not much of a difference for students taking only one exam, it adds up to be a significant increase for students taking multiple exams. The College Board does, however, offer generous financial aid to any students who may not be able to afford multiple exams with the newly increased fees.

Overall, the popular opinion of the College Board is that it causes many students to experience high levels of stress, as many students are consumed with the ideas of receiving college credit and receiving a high score on the exam.