New AP registration harms, not helps


By Melinda Xu, Co-Managing Editor

Starting this year, College Board has implemented a new AP registration policy. Rather than registering and paying for their exams in March, students now have to register by November. The company claims that this change to earlier registration will help students, that “commitment translates into more students taking the exam and earning college credit” and that the new policies had “the strongest effect for students who are traditionally underrepresented in AP.” They back their claims with data drawn from their 2018 pilot program that tested the new fall registration on 40,000 students.

I, however, am skeptical. 

First of all, forcing students to make a decision only two months into learning the curriculum is very rushed. With the old policy, students would have taken most of the course by March and would be able to properly evaluate how ready they are for the exam. Now, we no longer have that time to figure out if we’re willing to invest in an AP exam. At $94 a test, committing to an examination is no casual affair, and College Board doesn’t make it any easier for us with a $40 cancellation fee and a $40 late fee. 

This puts undue pressure on students to commit towards their exams, particularly for low-income students. College Board claims this pressure is good and that it encourages students to study and pass the exams in the spring. But of course College Board would like it when more students take the test: each test registered is $94 in their pocket. In fact, according to IRS forms, in 2017 when they first increased AP exam prices to $94 per test, the company experienced a profit growth of $102 million, earning a total profit of $139 million. 

Maybe the exorbitant price tags and early commitment would be worth it if it actually helped students. But surprise! It doesn’t. 

According to an analysis of College Board’s published data on their pilot program done by Total Registration, a company that helps school districts register for various standardized tests including AP exams, out of 3,141 low-income students at the pilot schools who decided to take the exam, only 742 passed their exams. That’s a 23.6 percent passing rate, 12.1 percent lower than the overall passing rate for low-income students at those schools and 36.1 percent lower than the national average. This poor passing rate for low-income students is 4 percent lower than  in the previous year, a decrease that’s two times more than in the two years prior to the implemention of fall registration. It’s clear to see, then, that the new registration policy actually harms students, particularly those that College Board claims to help the most with this new schedule: the underrepresented and low-income. 

We have to face it. College Board isn’t thinking with us students in mind. They’re thinking about the money they can earn. So next time you go to sign up for your exams, really consider how worth it the exam is. Obviously, there are benefits to AP exams and AP credit, but don’t allow the pressure of college and the need to always “be the best” force you to waste $94 on a test you don’t want to take. Instead, take the exams in topics that you are truly passionate about or that you know you can pass. That way, you can still benefit from the AP program without falling victim to College Board’s greed.