AP Tests Put NJ’s Top Students on the Map – and Earn Them College Credit

The results of this year's Advanced Placement exams are in, and three-quarters of the state's high-school students are high scorers

Last Wednesday, thousands of New Jersey high school students logged on to the College Board website to find out if they might be able to save some money and get out of college a little quicker.

The College Board released to students the results of Advanced Placement tests they took in the spring. Students who score a 3, 4, or 5 (out of 5) may be able to receive college credit for a class and not have to take it.

Last year, according to the state Department of Education, nearly 85,000 students took one or more of 37 different AP tests. Another 2,200 took one or more of 20 tests through the International Baccalaureate program, similar to the AP and offered at a dozen New Jersey high schools. For IB exams, colleges typically look for a grade of 4, 5, 6, or 7 and students usually learn their scores in early July, as well.

Statewide, nearly three-quarters of the students — mostly 11th and 12th graders — who took AP or IB classes last year earned a high score, according to data from the annual school report cards.

“Essentially AP and IB classes are classes of great rigor,” said Richard Vespucci, a DOE spokesman, explaining why the department includes data on these tests on its report cards. “High school courses of great rigor prepare students for college.”

More students take AP and IB classes in school than wind up taking one of the tests. Last year, about 111,000 students took AP courses and about three-quarters took exams. There were about 5,100 IB students, 43 percent of whom took the corresponding tests. Those numbers are estimates, since it’s possible for a student to take an AP test without having taken the course in school, and sometimes students won’t take the AP test the same year in which they takes the class.

The most popular advanced classes and tests in the state were AP U.S. History, AP English Language and Composition, and AP English Literature and Composition. More than 100,000 students statewide took each of those courses in 2012-2013 and more than 100,000 took the history exam.

Participation in AP classes and tests has been rising over the past decade. According to the College Board, about 16,600 New Jersey graduates had taken at least one AP exam in 2003 and 12,000 of them had scored at least a 3. Last year, more than 29,000 had taken tests and nearly 22,000 had achieved a high score.

Because the classes are not required, it can be more difficult for smaller high schools and those in less wealthy districts to offer many. According to the report card, 25 high schools in the state offered at least 20 different AP classes last year with Morris Knolls High School in Rockaway providing the most — 29. A half-dozen small charter schools and high school academies reported offering only 1 AP class.

Five schools reported 100 percent passing rates on the advanced tests: Hoboken Charter, Newark Vocational, Middlesex Vocational, Woodrow Wilson in Camden, and the Union County Academy for the Performing Arts. In all but one of those, it appears that a small number of students took tests that had not taken AP classes in school.

There were seven high schools that reported every 11th and 12th grader took at least one AP or IB class, but that information was self-reported by district officials and so may not be completely accurate.

The map includes advanced class and test information for each high school that reported results; those that did not indicate any students had either taken a class or a test were omitted.