PA Students Score High on APs; 55% Earn Top Grade

The Advanced Placement (AP) program offered at Phillips Academy has proved extremely effective. In 2005, 429 Andover students took a total of 1101 exams. Fifty-five percent of students received a grade of five, 30% earned fours, 11% received a 3, while less than 4% got twos. Fourteen point one percent of public school students in the United States scored three or above on their AP exams according to, compared to 96% of Andover students. According to some teachers, Andover students perform so well on AP exams because students are able to self-select; a student who excels in an elementary level of Physics would elect to take the Physics AP, while a struggling student would choose not to take it. Almost 40% of students took an AP exam last year. APs give students a chance to earn credit for college courses while still in high school. PA offers over 20 AP courses in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from BC Calculus to Spanish Literature. AP exams are graded on a scale from one to five. A score of five is considered equivalent to an “A” in a college class, while a four is considered to be in the mid-A or upper-B range, according to the College Board website. Most colleges accept grades of four or five on APs in place of the corresponding college course. Instructor in Music Dr. Peter Warsaw, said, “APs give a course a certain validity.” He said that if a student can complete the course work for an AP class they will be able to succeed in the exam. PA’s Music Theory and Composition course is currently ranked as the number one AP music course in the country for a “large school,” or one with more than 800 students between tenth to twelfth grades, by the College Board. This ranking is based on collective scores from the students’ APs and the number of candidates from this school who took the test. Dr. Warsaw said, “Most [students of AP Music Theory and Composition] place into at least second year theory, and some third year…as shocking as it sounds, it’s typical of Phillips Academy to do a lot in a short period of time.” In AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, the College Board also ranked Andover as the number one “large school” in the nation. Instructor in Mathematics Patrick Farrell recalled grading AP exams; a college professor entered the room to commend the high school teachers on the quality of their teaching, and all the college professors in the room stood up to applaud. Most colleges accept AP credit and allow students who received a four or five to bypass equivalent courses. However, some schools do not recognize these scores and will require students to retake classes even if he or she received honor grades on their APs. For example, though Brown University does not acknowledge AP credit, it does allow any students who have already completed an AP level class to place above the basic level college course in that subject. AP classes have evolved in the past 20 years. In AP Music Theory and Composition 20 years ago, there were only four students and they were all serious musicians. Now there are approximately forty students in AP Music Theory and Composition and not all are dedicated musicians. Instructor in History and Social Sciences Carroll Perry, who teaches AP economics, found that most of his students’ AP scores correspond with their term grades. However he said, “Occasionally students do well in class but they are already into college by the time in May when they take the exam and their grade is not as important to them and [so] they don’t do as well.” The syllabi of AP classes vary depending on the teacher and the subject; some are standard while others are more fluid. The first term of AP Economics is standard and the only term required in order to take the Microeconomics AP exam; the second term prepares students for the Macroeconomics exam, while the third is not related to the AP exam program. At other schools, AP classes are sometimes factored differently into a student’s grade point average. Some teachers feel that this would encourage students to take more advanced classes. Andover students will begin registration for AP exams this week, though they will not take the tests until the Spring Term.