With the ACT® or SAT® Test No Longer Required at Many Colleges, What Is the Impact on AP® exams?

Teenager on campus walking to class with backpack and books.

First of a two-part series: Should high school students still take college-level courses?

Although many colleges are making the submission of SAT or ACT scores optional, there is no shortage of education experts who continue to tout the importance of high school AP classes.

Paula Payton, Assistant Director of Admissions at Claflin University in South Carolina, told U.S. News & World Report that regardless of whether or not test scores are part of college applications, taking AP courses in high school is still very important.

“They enable the student to learn not only advanced material, but how well you are able to handle the rigors of college-level courses,” Payton said. “(They) also teach the student time management and how to balance social and family life while being committed to your education.”

Angela Sharp, a counselor at Park Hill South High School in Missouri, told U.S. News & World Report that taking college-level courses in high school is “nonnegotiable” for college-bound students.

“It teaches a student how to read independently, note taking, test-taking skills and more,” she says. “There are a different set of expectations in a college-level course.” She went on to say that even if students struggle, “they will learn how to be a self-advocate and ask for help – and maybe for the first time ever.” Philip Bates, Director of College Prep for UWorld, concurs with sharp and equates it to athletics.

“Look at it this way, the student learns how to practice and perform in high school, so they can apply those newly-found or honed skills in the big game–college,” Bates says. “It really holds true. High school AP is the minor leagues and you have to start there so you can build the confidence to be an effective big league star.”

Moreover, Bates adds that the AP experience can help students secure grants and scholarships. “Colleges are looking for ways to distinguish students from each other. AP courses and AP success does exactly that, especially when other college readiness measures, like SAT and ACT scores, are not being submitted.”

In the same U.S. News & World Report story, Darrin Rankin, vice president for enrollment management and retention at Jarvis Christian University in Texas, says, “High achievement in those college-level courses gives colleges looking at transcripts an idea about how well prepared a student is to succeed in college.”

“Few colleges seek out students who need remediation,” adds Rankin. “A trend we see more frequently today at Jarvis is incoming first-year students who have completed a semester or two of college credits, and some students have already completed their associate degree.”

As for the future of AP courses on American high school campuses with growing test-optional admission policies, Bates is bullish on them:

“All of the current data shows that high school grade point averages are continuing down a path of being overly-inflated,” he says. “With the average GPA growing higher each year, college admission departments must continue to rely on other academic measures to admit students and predict how they are going to perform in college. AP is a perfect way to do that. The research also says students who complete AP courses are most likely to be successful in college. In fact, AP success is the best indicator of future college success, even better than SAT or ACT.”

Next (part 2): Since many colleges no longer require ACT® or SAT® test scores, what is the impact on AP® courses? Part 2

References: Sammy Allen, Tips for Starting the College Search, US World News & Report, July 8, 2022.

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