College Board will stop deducting points for missed multiple choice questions on AP exams

The College Board recently announced that they will stop deducting points on AP exams for missed multiple choice questions, read about the policy change here.  Beginning in May 2011, students will receive 1 point for each correct answer and 0 points for incorrect answer.  Here’s the new policy from the College Board’s website:

Beginning with the May 2011 AP Exam administration, there will be a change to the way AP Exams are scored. Total scores on the multiple-choice section will be based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers and, as always, no points will be awarded for unanswered questions.

This is a change from past scoring systems where  a part of a point was deducted for incorrect answers.  In the past, if a student missed multiple choice question with 5 possible answers, a 1/4 of a point was deducted.  The justification behind this was to remove the effect of guessing.  With 5 answer choices a student had a 1 in 5 chance of getting a correct answer if they truly guessed.  The idea behind the 1/4 deduction is that if a student guessed on 5 questions, they statistically would get one right, earning a point and 4 wrong at -1/4 point.  This translates into 1 + 4(-1/4) = 0 points.

Personally I do not understand the change, as the past scoring system had been used for so long.  It seems that the College Board will now have a harder time comparing new scores to past scores, but perhaps that is the goal :-). The multiple choice score will now be larger on average.  This of course can be accounted for when normalizing the scores, but throws one more wrench in the spokes.

The biggest problem I have with this change is that it  will benefit the students who struggle on the exams more than the students who have mastery over the content.  Think about it, exceptional students are not guessing much, and will therefore not be affected much, while less proficient students guess more and will now have a higher multiple choice score.  This change in scoring will result in reducing the range of the multiple choice scores by increasing the low end while not affecting the high end.  Perhaps this is the desired affect as many schools and districts have been criticized for “over expanding” their AP Programs, by encouraging students who are ill-prepared to take AP courses.

Only time will tell how theses changes will be received by the colleges that accept AP credits.  Let’s hope for the sake of the students that this does not cause more colleges and universities to deny college credit for AP exams.

You can read other opinions/comments regarding  the policy change here:

2 Responses to “College Board will stop deducting points for missed multiple choice questions on AP exams”

  1. Hey nice stuff..!! Thank you for sharing it with us. It was truly very interesting and informative reading.