AP and IB examinations are administered each May, but scores are not available until July. Therefore, examination grades from the senior year do not influence college admission, but are used in credit and placement decisions. Students also use these credits to reduce course loads or to meet prerequisite or distribution requirements. As a result, some students may not have to take college courses in specific subject areas, such as mathematics or science. Some institutions minimize this practice by requiring that students enroll in courses at higher levels than those taken in high school. A survey of mathematics and biology departments revealed that the vast majority award credit and advanced placement for AP, and sometimes IB; the amount awarded usually depends on the student’s score.
Developed in 1955, AP is the predominant national program for advanced courses in U.S. high schools. Eleven separate courses are available in eight mathematics and science subjects. The College Board provides topic outlines for AP courses, generated largely by surveying colleges and universities. However, teachers are allowed considerable leeway in implementation. Elective, end-of-course examinations are designed to be comparable with “typical” introductory college-level courses in a subject area. Originally, the program served only top students from a few high schools. Today, approximately 62 percent of U.S. high schools offer AP. In May 2001, students took more than 450,000 AP examinations in mathematics and science.
The IB program was developed in the late 1960s to provide an international standard of secondary education for children of diplomats and others stationed outside their countries. One goal was to prepare students for university work in their home countries. The IBO authorizes participating high schools; schools must offer a full IB Diploma Programme and cannot offer only a subset of IB courses. While some students take individual IB courses as they would an honors course, most are diploma candidates, taking a program of six or seven courses over two years.
Final examinations are part of the integrated IB Diploma Programme. Assessment consists of both external and internal components designed to measure content knowledge, depth of understanding, and use of specific higher-level cognitive skills for each subject. In May 2001, students from 272 U.S. public and private schools took 50,745 IB examinations, of which roughly 13,000 were in mathematics and science. Teachers also provide internal as-