At the same time, the commission emphasizes that the AP program needs to adhere to the following set of expectations to maintain program quality and oversight:

  • While continuing to reflect college-level expectations and cooperation between schools and colleges, AP courses and examinations also should reflect changes in the disciplines and in pedagogy and provide models of effective instruction.

  • The reliability of the AP examinations in measuring student achievement at the introductory college level must be ensured.

  • Standards for AP programs in schools and school systems, for AP teachers, and for teachers’ professional development should be formulated and implemented.

  • The program should focus on expanding access for underserved schools and populations by strengthening the preparation of students in courses that precede AP courses.


Consistent with the purpose of the program, AP courses are designed to be equivalent to general introductory college courses with respect to the range and depth of topics covered, the kinds of textbooks used, the kinds of laboratory work done by students, and the time and effort required of students (CEEB, 2001a). A course description for each AP course briefly outlines the topics that may be included on the end-of-course examination, describes the examination format, and provides sample questions. The course description and teacher’s guide for each AP subject area are available for a fee to teachers, who can use them as the basis for developing the curriculum for their own courses (course descriptions can now be downloaded from the College Board’s Web site for free). Individual teachers are given great leeway in structuring AP courses for their classrooms. Thus, the curriculum for AP courses varies from classroom to classroom in both design and implementation, including which topics are emphasized, how the topics are related, how the content is sequenced, and how much time is spent on laboratory activities.

Development of AP Courses

College faculty members in each discipline, along with experienced AP teachers, are recruited by the College Board to serve on a development committee for each AP course. The traditional strategy for determining the content and skills to be covered in an AP course and on the AP examination

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