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AP Enrollment and Success Grows

It's AP exam time in high schools across the country. So, just who is taking Advanced Placement classes these days? Are students getting college credit? How can you help your student ace the exams? I spoke with Sue Landers, executive director of the AP program for the College Board, for some insight.

More than 30 college-level courses are now offered through the College Board's Advanced Placement Program and the demand is growing. Students know that having AP classes will help them stand out in the college application process, says Landers. Educators like that AP challenges kids and prepares them for college. Admissions officers look for AP classes as an indication of students' academic rigor. And in these tight economic times, students and parents are eager to earn college credit in high school to save money.

Each year, more students—including low-income students—are succeeding in AP courses, according the College Board. About 15.9 percent of students who graduated from U.S. public schools in 2009 earned an AP exam score of at least a "3" on one or more AP exams during high school. This is up from 15.2 percent in 2008 and 12.7 percent in 2004. In the 2009 graduating class, 18.9 percent of AP examinees were low-income students, up from 17.0 percent in the class of 2008 and 13.7 percent in the class of 2004.

Why the increase? Many schools are making AP more widely available and dropping requirements, such as having a recommendation to enroll.

Just because you take an AP classes, however, doesn't automatically mean you get credit. AP is accepted by more than 90 percent of four-year institutions in the United States, but the credit replacement policy varies by college and even within departments of a college. Scoring a "3" on the AP exam is the baseline indicator that the student is qualified for credit, but it is up to the college's discretion to grant the credit. Highly selective schools may require a "5" on the exam; some foreign languages may ask students to take an additional test before giving credit, says Landers.

Finally, aside from filling your students up with a hearty breakfast and making sure they are flush with sharpened No. 2 pencils, what can you do to help them get ready for the exam?

Check out the College Board website and the section on AP exam preparation. Here you'll find free response questions from previous tests, study skills and test-taking tips by subject area, and AP publications, and study guides.

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