How the College Board Leeches off of AP Students


 When a student initiates their enrollment in their first AP class, they may do so expecting to gain more advanced knowledge, better critical thinking skills, college credits, and a GPA boost, but little do they know the catastrophic academic nightmare that awaits them at the hands of the College Board. 

   Advanced placement courses, or AP classes, are part of an American program that was launched by the College Board in 1955. They offer what they claim are “college-level classes with an advanced curriculum” so students who score well enough on the exam can earn college credit. 

   Students can receive a score of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on these tests, with a 1 being the lowest and a 5 being the highest. They must obtain a minimum score of 3 on the examination for college credit. There is no feedback in regards to your score; the number is just available to students months after they complete the test.

   The first issue with the college board begins with their flawed use of technology and the way that they put their platform together. 

  “They’ve recently done a couple of updates for this school year but I still feel like it doesn’t flow very well for the students or the teacher,” said Mrs. Ashley Dickinson, AP 11 English teacher. “It’s really hard to manage your assignments in the AP classroom. I feel like they put things in very obscure places, and you have to go on a scavenger hunt.”

   Education in the United States revolves around websites and technology-based sources. Flawed technology, as strained as it may occur, has the potential to dismantle the foundation needed by students, teachers, and parents to collaborate. The fact that such an essential learning tool is so difficult to manage suggests that there may be deeper faults impacting the curriculum, which is very much the case. 

    However, ineludible issues with AP courses unfortunately begin before the students even arrive at their first lesson. The College Board is classified as a nonprofit organization, meaning that they are exempt from federal tax, yet they take around $93 out of the pockets of AP students per test.  In fact, they accumulated $1.2 billion in revenue during 2020 and have no viable competitors.

   These types of characteristics fall under the definition of a monopoly, or a dominant position of industry by one company that does not have rivals. 

   The pricing for these courses can be hard for lower income students, especially minority groups, to cover and lack affordable and easily accessible support opportunities for all students. 

   “Black students, who make up nearly 22 percent of the state’s high schoolers, are generally underrepresented in AP classes (with just 12.7 percent of total enrollment). Non-disadvantaged Black students make up 7.3 percent of AP enrollment, while low-income Black students make up only 5.4 percent.” (Virginia Mercury.)    

   In order to perform well on AP exams, students often require tutoring, a guide book, or some form of additional help that can be too pricey for a lot of families. Because of this, generally only wealthy and non-minority students are able to perform well. Seeing as how white and affluent students are overrepresented in AP classes, the College Board is in desperate need of reform. Students of all backgrounds deserve equal opportunity in these courses. 

   Another group that is neglected by the Advanced Placement structure is neurodiverse students, like those on the autism spectrum, with ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions that impact how they learn. 

   The College Board is currently being sued for failing to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities like these. The issue grew so severe, that the College Board even ended up being sued on May 19, 2020, for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

   “Students who had these accommodations approved for the in-school test found out about a week before the exam that their accommodations would not be transferred.” (Alligator Independent).

   All organizations involved in providing exams for schools have a responsibility to ensure that their tests are fair to all students. When they are unable to do this, they cost many students their good and hard-earned scores that, according to educators, “pave the way for their future.” 

   Additionally, the College Board suffers from invalid testing. AP exams generally contain a multiple-choice section and a free-response section, both of which have very restrictive time limits. 

   Before the COVID-19 pandemic, testing time could range from 1 hour and 30 minutes, to 3 hours and 15 minutes. However, during COVID-19, many subjects had a 90-minute time limit for the multiple-choice section, or an essay that had to be completed in around 45 minutes, with the last 5 minutes intended for submission. 

   The number of minutes during the test is usually the same as the number of questions, meaning that the student testing only has a minute to answer each question. This is unreasonable, because each question varies in length, with some including more in-depth paragraphs. 

   The material covered for the tests is also packed into such a short time frame, that it prevents teachers from going in-depth with the material, which is contradictory to the function of the course since it is intended to be college level.  

  “We only had 40 minutes to write an entire essay on the AP World exam, how am I supposed to finish that…I can know a bunch about a lot of topics but end up with one that I don’t know anything about,” Autumn Grace, junior, said. 

   Students may also have also ended up with “luck-based score” during COVID, since they received a single prompt which could have been based on any lesson throughout the year. If it happened to be one of the few things that they learned very little about, they did not have a chance at receiving a high score. 

   AP exams during the pandemic should have been structured in a way that assessed students’ knowledge on multiple, frequently reviewed topics, rather than just one. There also should have been a more reasonable time limit so students had more time to think and put depth into their answers. 

   Some may even argue that AP courses should not require an exam for students to earn college credits. 

   “It’s ridiculous that an exam determines your performance for the whole year, especially if you have a good grade,” Grace said.

   On top of the testing methods being inequitable, there are other factors that could play into a student scoring poorly on the exam. Perhaps they experience testing anxiety, have issues with concentrating due to neurodiversity, or have personal matters that have their mind elsewhere.

   Furthermore, they are given no feedback in regards to what went wrong and how they can improve their next test.

   A single day ultimately cannot determine how much knowledge a pupil accumulated throughout the year. A final project with a reasonable time limit would allow students to express their insights and more accurately portray how educated they are on the topic, especially if their teacher scored it rather than the College Board. 

   Feedback in regards to their final project should be mandatory, so that they can refute a score if they feel it is incorrect, or so that they know how to improve next time.

   Conclusively, College courses are intended to provide people with necessary knowledge that they can apply in the real world. AP classes brush over the abstract concepts needed for life after high school, with busy work that prevents students from truly delving into their interests. 

   “I was looking forward to it, but the amount of assignments we got ruined it,” Ariana Ferguson, junior, said.

   When assignments are lengthy and redundant students feel urged to rush through them without taking away any significant information long term. They may also experience burn out from the dense workload. 

   If the College Board incorporates a hands-on curriculum, with challenging tasks that do not overwhelm students, it would encourage curiosity and help them store knowledge long term. When students learn in a way that is fun, it not only helps them retain information better, but also increases their curiosity so that they want to branch out and find more answers. 

   AP courses have always had and still have incredible potential, it just has failed to be executed correctly. Once the College Board is held accountable for their hostile technology, excessive industrial power, enquities towards disadvantaged students, invalid tests, and flawed exam procedures, bright students will be able to reach their full potential and can look forward to a brighter future rather than being subjected to mindless busy work. 

   Nevertheless, the College Board holds so much power that they are able to get away with unjust actions unscathed. In order to cease policies that harm students and teachers, wider action must be taken. You can begin by raising awareness. 

   I encourage those of you reading my critique to share this article and express your own concerns regarding the Advanced Placement curriculum, as the only way to reform a broken institution is to rise against it in numbers. Message them at to create change.