College & Workforce Readiness

Making It Easier to Get Advanced Placement Credit for College

By Catherine Gewertz — August 01, 2018 2 min read
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One more state has stepped up to simplify the maze of conflicting policies that students confront when they try to get college credit for Advanced Placement courses.

All the campuses in New Mexico’s state college and university system will now use one standardized approach to accepting AP credit, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced the decision Monday.

AP exams are scored from 1 to 5. The College Board, which makes the test, considers a score of 3 to reflect college-level mastery.

New Mexico’s new policy spells out the AP exam score students must get to earn credit in courses ranging from biology to art history and Chinese. Most courses will require a score of 3 or higher. In some, students will need to score a 4 or 5.

In the past, each campus in New Mexico’s higher education system was able to decide the AP score for which it would award course credit. Now, all campuses will abide by the same credit-acceptance rules.

The state made the change as part of a broader effort to get more students into AP courses, and use those credits to help them complete college more quickly.

“More kids than ever are taking and passing AP exams, and now we’re giving them the tools they need to apply their hard work toward completing a college degree and saving their families money in tuition costs,” Barbara Damron, the state’s secretary of higher education, said in a prepared statement released to local news media.

Nationwide, schools still vary widely in the scores they accept for credit. It’s not uncommon for campuses within one state college or university system to use different criteria for the AP credits they’ll accept.

As Education Week reported a few years ago, about two-thirds of colleges award credit for a score of 3 or better. Thirty percent don’t award credit unless students score 4 or higher, and 2 percent require a 5. A handful of selective institutions refuse to award any credit for AP exams, even if students score a 5.

But things are changing. Nationwide, most AP students now live in states that guarantee college credit for AP scores, said College Board spokesman Zachary Goldberg.

And more states are adopting policies that set uniform standards for credit acceptance, he said. Twenty-eight states now have AP credit policies that apply statewide or across all campuses of their higher-education systems, he said. Recently, North Carolina announced a similar policy.

An analysis by the Education Commission of the States offers summaries of each state’s AP credit acceptance policy—if it has one—as of 2016.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.