Making the Grade Why AP courses are so popular, where Maryland students rank.

These days, in the halls of high schools across the nation, there’s a lot of talk about Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses, created by the College Board, have become increasingly popular among high school students across the nation. In 2016 alone, 1.1 million students had taken at least one AP exam during high school—about double the number from ten years prior, according to the College Board. Why?

In recent years, many schools have pushed to expand their AP course offerings. Participating schools present the courses as a way for students to distinguish themselves as capable of rigorous material to prospective colleges; plus, a high score on the course’s final exam can double as college credit, thereby reducing requisite college coursework. Participating high schools win out too, as they can tout their rigorous course offerings.

Not only are more high school students nationwide taking AP courses; they’re also improving their AP exam scores. In 2016, more than 20 percent of U.S. public high school graduates received a score of 3 or above on an AP exam, qualifying them in many instances for (free) college credit. Maryland students surpassed the national average: 30.4 percent received a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam.

But Massachusetts students edged out Maryland AP exam takers, reaching a success rate of 31 percent. Here’s a breakdown of the top ten AP exam-taking states in the nation, courtesy of the College Board:

  1. Massachusetts 31%
  2. Maryland 30.4%
  3. Connecticut 30.1%
  4. Florida 29.5%
  5. California 28.5%
  6. Virginia 28.3%
  7. New York 27.3%
  8. Colorado 26.9%
  9. New Jersey 26.5%
  10. Illinois 25.1%


About Elizabeth Heubeck

Elizabeth Heubeck, a native of Baltimore, is a former editor of Baltimore's Child and the mother of two teenagers. Currently, she spends much of her spare time wishing she was a gourmet cook (or at least a solid short-order cook), hoping the piles of laundry would disappear and, in the warmer months, battling weeds in her flower beds.

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