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Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

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Understanding the SAT and AP Examination Programs

Standard Examinations

It used to be true that the best way to achieve recognition from a college admission office for work done in any science course was to take a universally recognized standardized test. The two major examinations were the SAT II Subject Test and the Advanced Placement test. However, in 2021, the College Board announced that it would no longer administer the SAT II Subject Tests and only AP courses would be offered in the future.

Starting in 2009, the College Board also began revising the AP course content and conditions. Prior to this period, teachers had complete control over course content, textbooks used, grading, and record keeping. Over the last decade, however, the College Board has placed more and more restrictions on how AP courses could be taught. In 2019, it began to require teachers to use its own online resources for course administration, including quiz and test grades, in order to provide students enrolled in AP courses with many of its preparation materials, promising to protect student data. While such tools can be helpful to teachers and students, the College Board subsequently changed its privacy policy several times, and has apparently shared personal identification data collected from its AP course sites with third parties. For these reasons, among others, Scholars Online has joined a number of private schools and institutions who have determined not to seek official AP status for their courses any longer. You can find out more on why we undertook this decision in the Continuing in the Word blog article, "To Teach, or not to Teach to the Test".

The Advanced Placement Test

The Advanced Placement program originally provided high school students the chance to do college-level study and get credit for their work from many colleges and universities. Colleges in other countries may also recognize the AP examination as an indicator of advanced work beyond high school, and some US and Canadian colleges will award you sophomore standing if you meet their requirements through outstanding AP exam performance, reducing the cost of your college education. Several scholarships are awarded on the basis of AP scores. Check the College Board Advanced Placement website for more information on the AP program.

Exam registration deadlines and administration dates can be found on the AP Calendar. Note the special instructions for homeschooled students on this page!

Be forewarned, though: a number of US colleges and universities will not grant you college credit for AP work, regardless of your score on the exam, and some departments refuse credit while others at the same college may grant credit. Be sure to verify the AP credit policy in your subject at each of the colleges that interest you; do not automatically assume that a particular college department will grant you college credit for this course on the basis of your AP score. As of 2021, more and more colleges and universities are expanding their admission policies to allow other forms of evidence for student accomplishment. The best way to find out what you need for admission consideration is to review the websites for the colleges and universities you are considering, and to contact their admissions office and academic departments for guidance.

CLEP: The College-Level Examination Program

An alternative to the AP examination for college credit is the CLEP examination. These examinations are primarily intended for adults who have learned subjects on the job. Colleges may or may not accept CLEP scores, and they may have different policies for CLEP results and AP results.

ACT Exams

The ACT (formerly American College Testing) exam is another standardized test used for college admissions. It is an alternative to the SAT general examination, and is administered not by the College Board organization but through the ACT organization. The ACT exam has five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning, and Writing; this last one is optional. There are no subject matter examinations, and it is not generally used by itself to place students in second-year college science courses on admission.

Test Preparation vs. Subject Mastery

While we do not seek formal AP status for our courses any longer, Scholars Online Latin IV, Senior English, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses are designed to provide rigorous and thorough grounding in these subjects, and we believe students will be well-prepared to take any standard examinations in the relevant topics. Because we emphasize subject mastery beyond simple test preparation, our courses prepare students to excel not only in a particular test situation, but in their college courses as well.