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How Have AP Courses Changed Over the Years? Part 1

How the AP exams that most students took in the past will never be the same

At the start of this decade (the 2010s), the College Board initiated a complete overhaul of the Advanced Placement program. AP tests were the College Board’s answer to elite prep schools who insisted that their students could immediately begin tougher courses once they arrived at universities. As time has marched on, some of the very schools who insisted upon this test are now opting out and developing their own programs. Needless to say, the AP program has undergone countless changes over the course of its history. This post is part 1 of a 2 part series of posts and since it’s almost AP season, let’s take a look at some big shifts in AP testing over the years.

Textbooks and Course Materials

Without a doubt, AP textbooks reached their critical mass over the last decade. In some courses, like AP Biology, they swelled by almost 20 chapters and a few hundred pages. Other textbooks exceed 1000 pages. The expansion of textbooks matched the advent of new advances and knowledge over the years. Although textbooks have been expanding for the last few decades, there are a few signs that books may be shrinking. First of all, AP has recently streamlined their course outlines and curricula. This streamlining was a response to teachers and students feeling overwhelmed by too much material. Moreover, other tools for AP students emerge on an almost daily basis. From mobile apps to interactive study guides, students have an ever-increasing number of resources at their disposal. This reduces both the weight of their backpacks and the amount of time they need to devote to their physical textbooks.


Simply put, more students are taking AP exams than ever before. This is partly the result of a more competitive college application process. Students are also interested in a cheaper, faster college education, so the promise of credits by examination has attracted new students to the program. Lastly, part of the high school ranking process by US News is determined by the number of students taking AP exams and similar tests. In short, students, teachers, principals and parents all see the incentives behind the AP examinations.

In the next post, I hope to cover some more points on how the AP program has changed over the past few years. So keep yourselves posted!