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Class of 2018 AP Data Overview

Every year, more students are participating and succeeding in AP. Over the past 10 years:

  • The number of U.S. public high school graduates who took an AP Exam during high school increased by 65%.
  • The number of U.S. public high school graduates who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam increased by 63%.

AP Participation

  • The class of 2018 took a total of 4.22 million AP Exams, and approximately 1.24 million U.S. public high school graduates (38.9% of the class) took at least one AP Exam, up from 752,255 (25.1%) in the class of 2008.
  • In the class of 2018, AP Exam fee reductions were used by 30.8% of AP Exam takers. The percentage of low-income students participating in AP has nearly doubled in the past 10 years—only 16.5% of AP Exam takers from the class of 2008 were low-income students.

AP Performance

  • During the same time period, the number of U.S. public high school graduates who scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam rose from 459,492 (15.3% of the 2008 class) to 749,938 (23.5% of the 2018 class).
  • The majority of AP students nationwide reside in states where state and system college credit policies are guaranteed for AP Exam success.

Benefits of AP

Independent researchers have documented the benefits of AP. The evidence shows that AP delivers value to high school students by reducing college costs, driving degree completion, and advancing students’ placement into challenging college courses. Research further shows that, compared to peers who don’t take AP, students who are successful with AP:

  • Earn higher GPAs in college
  • Are more likely to graduate in 4 years
  • Have higher graduation rates

AP students are more likely to finish their degrees promptly and save the costs of a fifth year of college. For example, a fifth year in college working on their degree adds, on average, $21,370 in costs (tuition, fees, room and board) at four-year public in-state colleges, $37,430 at four-year public out-of-state colleges, and $48,510 at four-year private colleges or universities. (Trends in College Pricing, Table 1).

Because AP students are more likely to finish their degrees promptly, they also enter the workforce and begin earning income sooner. Failure to promptly complete a degree adds costs—forgone earnings—on top of the extra college expenses cited above. For example, a fifth year in college costs students forgone earnings of about $32,000, on average. A fifth and sixth year in college implies they’ve forgone an average of $64,000 in earnings. (Education Pays 2016, pg. 18). In addition, new research shows AP Exam scores are extremely strong predictors of a student’s choice of college major. Across all AP Exams, researchers find that higher AP scores are consistently associated with increases in the probability of majoring in that subject. For example, on average, students who score a 5 versus a 4 on an AP Exam are 64% more likely to major in that AP subject.

These successes reflect the hard work of teachers and students, as well as a commitment from states and districts to help ensure that all students with the potential to succeed in AP are able to access those opportunities.

While expanding AP access is important, taking AP courses in excess does not provide added benefits when it comes to college outcomes. New research shows that the biggest predicted boost in college grades and on-time degree completion comes from moving a student from zero to one AP Exam and from one AP Exam to two. Data show that taking and performing well on more than 4–6 AP Exams does not markedly improve first-year college grades and four-year degree completion. This is important information for students, counselors, and higher education professionals to better understand potential impacts of taking multiple AP courses. Students should only take more than 4–6 AP courses in high school if they have a genuine desire for specific additional classes, not out of pressure to prepare for college.

AP Demographics

Even though significant progress has been made to ensure students have access to AP, some student groups remain underrepresented in AP classrooms and in the overall population of students who earn qualifying scores on AP Exams. Many schools and districts have engaged in innovative practices to increase access to AP for underrepresented students, resulting in significant growth in the number of students participating and succeeding in AP.

The data continue to show an upward trend in the number of underrepresented students succeeding in AP, with more than an 8% increase in the last year.

Number of U.S. Public School Graduates Scoring 3 or Higher on an AP Exam During High School
Group Class of 2017 Class of 2018 % Increase (1-Year)

Nation

711,813

749,938

5.4%

Underrepresented*

195,616

212,369

8.6%

American Indian/Alaska Native

1,603

1,790

11.7%

Black/African American

30,310

32,499

7.2%

Hispanic/Latino

162,869

177,161

8.8%

Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander

834

919

10.2%

Asian

83,239

92,331

10.9%

White

395,955

405,069

2.3%

Two or More Races

28,400

31,580

11.2%

No Response

8,603

8,589

-0.2%

*Includes American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander groups.

The participation and performance of AP Exam takers, broken down by demographic group, in the class of 2018:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native students represent .4% of exam takers and .2% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam 
  • Asian students represent 10% of exam takers and 12.3% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam
  • Black/African American students represent 8.8% of exam takers and 4.3% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam
  • Hispanic/Latino students represent 25.5% of exam takers and 23.6% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam
  • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students represent .2% of exam takers and .1% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam 
  • White students represent 49.5% of exam takers and 54% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam
  • Students who identify as two or more races represent 4.2% of exam takers and 4.2% of exam takers who earned a 3 or higher on at least one exam

Closing the equity gap in AP participation is critical to providing students with the opportunity to experience the benefit of challenging coursework. To continue closing this gap, the College Board is launching new resources for AP teachers and students, including unit guides, a question bank, and progress dashboards. These resources offer teachers flexible tools to plan classes, make assignments, and provide individual feedback to students over the course of the year. Go to the Expanding AP Access page for more information.

Highlights from State AP Data

For the third year in a row, Massachusetts has the highest percentage of graduates in the country to participate and succeed in AP. This achievement is the result of the daily work of thousands of dedicated students, teachers, and education professionals in the state. The nonprofit Mass Insight Education continues to partner with districts to ensure students in Massachusetts can take AP and succeed.

The percentage of Washington, D.C., graduates succeeding in AP has increased the most in the nation. (Growth outcomes are measured using data from last year, three years ago, and five years ago.) In Washington, D.C., the Office of the State Superintendent pays the AP Exam fee for all low-income students in the district, and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) pays the cost of the exam for all other students. DCPS requires that every high school offer seven AP courses so students can have equal access to AP.

Similar to Washington, D.C., other states that have shown strong, sustained growth in the percentage of graduates succeeding in AP include California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. These four states, and Washington, D.C., all rank in the top 10 for the highest 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year increase in the percentage of graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Rhode Island’s AP growth is aided by state support for low-income students to take AP Exams for free. The Rhode Island Department of Education and Rhode Island Association of School Principals partner to deliver strategic professional learning opportunities to administrators throughout the state emphasizing the value of AP for all students.

In New Jersey, educators made efforts to remove obstacles for students who were interested in taking AP and added AP as a metric of success resulting in increased access in several districts.

The Illinois State Board of Education has made increasing AP access, participation, and performance central to the educational priorities for the state. Illinois has implemented a statewide AP credit policy, committed substantial resources to support exam fee funding for low-income students, and supported an AP grant program to help districts grow AP and support professional development. In addition, Chicago Public Schools continues to expand AP opportunities for students and is the only large urban school district to be recognized twice as an AP District of the Year.

In California, many districts used the College Readiness Block Grant to help cover the cost of AP Exams for low-income students. Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties all make access to AP a priority in their equity and access goals. In 2017, Lynwood Unified School District was selected as an AP District of the Year for their commitment to expand access to underrepresented students.

Rankings by State

Figure 1—2018 Performance

Percentage of all U.S. Public High School Students in the Class of 2018 who Scored a 3 or Higher on an AP Exam, by State.

What do the data show?

23.5% of U.S. public high school graduates scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam during high school.

32.9% of the public high school graduates in Massachusetts scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam, leading the nation.

States with a tie in the rankings are listed alphabetically.

The data on this page represent U.S. public school students only. Class of 2018 enrollment data are sourced from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) projections of high school graduates released in December 2016.

Figure 2a—Performance Change

1-Year, 3-Year, 5-Year, and 10-Year Change in the Percentage of Graduates Earning a 3 or Higher on an AP Exam During High School, by State, Ranked by the 10-Year Percentage Point Change.

What do the data show?

Massachusetts had a 12.8-point increase over 10 years in the percentage of public high school graduates earning a 3 or higher on an AP Exam, the highest in the nation.

District of Columbia had the largest one-year, three-year, and five-year increase in percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

8.2-point increase since 2008 in the percentage of U.S. public high school graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

0.7-point increase since 2017 in the percentage of U.S. public high school graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Performance Change
State 1-year 3-year 5-year 10-year
Massachusetts 0.9 3.2 6.5 12.8
Rhode Island 1.3 4.9 7.9 12.6
Florida 0.9 3.4 5.6 12.4
Connecticut 1.2 2.4 5.3 12.3
Illinois 1.0 4.2 6.5 12.3
New Jersey 1.0 3.7 6.2 11.1
District of Columbia 2.8 5.6 8.4 10.8
California 1.1 3.8 7.3 10.4
Nevada 0.1 4.9 7.9 10.4
Indiana 1.1 2.4 4.7 10.0
Wisconsin 0.6 1.7 4.3 9.7
Hawaii 1.9 3.9 5.4 9.5
Michigan 0.6 1.8 3.9 8.9
Minnesota 0.7 1.2 3.3 8.9
Kentucky 0.3 0.7 3.3 8.5
Colorado 0.7 1.3 4.5 8.4
Maryland 0.4 1.0 2.7 8.4
United States 0.7 2.2 4.4 8.2
Alabama 0.5 2.0 3.3 7.6
Arizona 0.8 2.0 3.2 7.6
New York 0.9 2.8 4.0 7.6
Georgia 0.2 1.7 3.2 7.5
Arkansas 0.4 1.2 2.9 7.4
Pennsylvania 0.4 1.8 4.0 7.4
Washington 0.7 1.8 3.5 7.2
Ohio 0.4 0.7 3.6 6.9
Texas 0.3 2.3 4.5 6.6
Oregon 0.6 1.9 3.0 6.4
Virginia 0.0 0.5 1.6 6.3
Delaware -0.1 2.0 2.4 6.1
South Carolina 0.1 1.5 3.7 6.1
Louisiana 0.6 1.8 4.0 5.9
Missouri 0.0 1.3 2.8 5.8
New Hampshire 0.5 1.2 3.1 5.6
Wyoming 1.3 1.9 3.4 5.5
Vermont 0.8 -0.3 1.9 5.3
Iowa 0.5 1.2 2.8 5.2
North Dakota 1.5 1.7 3.1 5.0
Nebraska -0.1 1.0 2.3 4.9
Tennessee 0.7 1.6 3.2 4.7
Maine -0.4 -0.6 0.5 4.5
West Virginia -0.1 0.7 2.0 4.2
New Mexico 1.0 1.6 2.3 4.1
North Carolina 0.5 1.8 3.5 4.1
Idaho 0.8 2.2 0.6 4.0
Utah 0.5 0.8 1.7 3.9
South Dakota 0.9 0.1 1.0 3.8
Mississippi 0.2 1.2 2.3 2.8
Alaska 0.4 0.2 2.4 2.5
Montana -0.2 -0.4 0.1 2.3
Oklahoma 0.4 0.3 0.9 2.3
Kansas 0.2 0.1 0.5 2.2

Figures 2a and 2b track the progress states have made over 1, 3, 5, and 10 years toward ensuring their students have the opportunity and preparation to succeed in AP.

The data on this page represent U.S. public school students only. Class of 2018 enrollment data are sourced from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) projections of high school graduates released in December 2016.

Figure 2b—Performance Trend

Percentage of the Classes of 2008, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018 Scoring a 3 or Higher on an AP Exam During High School, by State, Ranked by the 10-Year Percentage Point Change Appearing in Figure 2a.

What do the data show?

Massachusetts had the highest percentage of public high school graduates score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam in 2017 and 2018.

Maryland had the highest percentage of public high school graduates score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam in 2008, 2013, and 2015.

Performance Trend
State 2008 2013 2015 2017 2018
Massachusetts 20.1 26.4 29.7 32.0 32.9
Rhode Island 9.5 14.2 17.2 20.8 22.1
Florida 19.3 26.1 28.3 30.8 31.7
Connecticut 19.9 26.9 29.8 31.0 32.2
Illinois 15.0 20.8 23.1 26.3 27.3
New Jersey 17.9 22.8 25.3 28.0 29.0
District of Columbia 8.8 11.2 14.0 16.8 19.6
California 20.9 24.0 27.5 30.2 31.3
Nevada 14.4 16.9 19.9 24.7 24.8
Indiana 10.2 15.5 17.8 19.1 20.2
Wisconsin 16.4 21.8 24.4 25.5 26.1
Hawaii 7.7 11.8 13.3 15.3 17.2
Michigan 12.3 17.3 19.4 20.6 21.2
Minnesota 14.1 19.7 21.8 22.3 23.0
Kentucky 10.0 15.2 17.8 18.2 18.5
Colorado 19.9 23.8 27.0 27.6 28.3
Maryland 23.2 28.9 30.6 31.2 31.6
United States 15.3 19.1 21.3 22.8 23.5
Alabama 6.5 10.8 12.1 13.6 14.1
Arizona 9.6 14.0 15.2 16.4 17.2
New York 21.1 24.7 25.9 27.8 28.7
Georgia 15.7 20.0 21.5 23.0 23.2
Arkansas 10.7 15.2 16.9 17.7 18.1
Pennsylvania 12.0 15.4 17.6 19.0 19.4
Washington 16.4 20.1 21.8 22.9 23.6
Ohio 10.9 14.2 17.1 17.4 17.8
Texas 15.3 17.4 19.6 21.6 21.9
Oregon 12.1 15.5 16.6 17.9 18.5
Virginia 22.2 26.9 28.0 28.5 28.5
Delaware 13.5 17.2 17.6 19.7 19.6
South Carolina 13.8 16.2 18.4 19.8 19.9
Louisiana 3.2 5.1 7.3 8.5 9.1
Missouri 6.4 9.4 10.9 12.2 12.2
New Hampshire 15.1 17.6 19.5 20.2 20.7
Wyoming 7.4 9.5 11.0 11.6 12.9
Vermont 20.4 23.8 26.0 24.9 25.7
Iowa 8.5 10.9 12.5 13.2 13.7
North Dakota 7.0 8.9 10.3 10.5 12.0
Nebraska 6.7 9.3 10.6 11.7 11.6
Tennessee 8.3 9.8 11.4 12.3 13.0
Maine 15.7 19.7 20.8 20.6 20.2
West Virginia 6.8 9.0 10.3 11.1 11.0
New Mexico 9.5 11.3 12.0 12.6 13.6
North Carolina 17.4 18.0 19.7 21.0 21.5
Idaho 9.5 12.9 11.3 12.7 13.5
Utah 21.6 23.8 24.7 25.0 25.5
South Dakota 9.5 12.3 13.2 12.4 13.3
Mississippi 3.9 4.4 5.5 6.5 6.7
Alaska 13.4 13.5 15.7 15.5 15.9
Montana 10.5 12.7 13.2 13.0 12.8
Oklahoma 9.8 11.2 11.8 11.7 12.1
Kansas 8.4 10.1 10.5 10.4 10.6

Figures 2a and 2b track the progress states have made over 1, 3, 5, and 10 years toward ensuring their students have the opportunity and preparation to succeed in AP.

The data on this page represent U.S. public school students only. Class of 2018 enrollment data are sourced from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) projections of high school graduates released in December 2016.