Advanced Placement Exams as the new indicator for college success?

This past week there were two articles that indicated that colleges are looking at AP exams as a better indicator, than SAT exams, of a students ability to succeed in college .  One article was in the New York Times and the other in the Washington Post.

In some ways  this makes sense.  The AP exams are tied to a particular curriculum and are therefore something that students can prepare for with hard work.  In my opinion, hard work determines some one’s success to a greater degree than intelligence.  Of course intelligence helps, but a smart, lazy person does not usually accomplish much.  Students in the AP course have an opportunity to be taught the material that will be assessed on the exam.  The SAT or ACT is quite different, in that it is not based on a certain curriculum and is probably affected more by an individuals intelligence or test taking ability.  The SAT and ACT tend to be hard for some students who read too much into a question and second guess themselves.  For these reasons, I would think that the AP exams would be a better indicator of a student’s success and therefore more important in a college’s admissions decision.

There are a couple of  problems with trying to base admissions of of AP exam scores is.  The first is that AP exams/course are not a level playing field.  Some schools do  not offer any AP courses or minimal courses while other schools offer over 30 different AP courses.  Students in rural schools are at a distinct disadvantage when compared to their metropolitan or suburban peers.  Another problem with using the AP scores is that many students take these AP courses their senior year, and with exams occurring in May and scores being distributed until July, it is too late for colleges to use them.  Most colleges have made their admissions decisions by July and have already held orientation for some of their incoming freshmen.

Perhaps the SAT IIs will be the best criteria as they are more subject oriented and less abstract and scores are reported earlier in the year.  Many colleges are now requiring candidates to have taken some SAT IIs.

I know that I am happy that I not involved with figuring out who to admit to colleges.  It has to be a tough task.

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