AP Courses

All of Baylor’s courses provide rigorous college preparation, and all Baylor students undertake a demanding academic schedule. Furthermore, the school is proud of all students who work diligently to realize their potential. To benefit students who are ready to do college-level work, the school participates in the Advanced Placement Program. The following information explains how that program works at Baylor.

An Overview
The Advanced Placement Program, sponsored by the College Board, provides high school students with the opportunity to enroll in college-level courses, take national exams, and receive various kinds of college credit for their performances on those exams. Baylor has been involved with the A.P. program since its inception; in 1954 the school was one of the original 38 secondary schools to participate in the program. Today Baylor offers an impressive array of AP courses:

  • Studio Art: 2D
  • Studio Art: 3D
  • Art History
  • European History
  • U.S. History
  • Human Geography
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • French Language
  • German Language
  • Latin: Vergil
  • Spanish Language
  • Spanish Literature
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Statistics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics C: Mechanics
  • Environmental Science

In a given year students may take only one AP Calculus exam.

By their very nature, AP courses are particularly rigorous, demanding much of teachers and students. The courses are not simply advanced sections for juniors or seniors—they are college-level courses that require mastery of a specified body of material. As a result, workloads are heavy—usually considerably heavier than in non-AP sections—and teachers expect students to do extensive homework.

Advanced Placement Exams
Students in AP Studio Art courses are evaluated by means of a portfolio. Students in all other AP classes take Advanced Placement exams in May. Most of these exams are three or more hours long. All have two components: a multiple-choice section, which lasts anywhere from 55 to 110 minutes (depending on the subject), and a free-response section in which students work problems, analyze documents, write essays, and the like.

Portfolios and exams are graded on a 1-5 scale. Here is the official interpretation of the scores:
5 = extremely well qualified
4 = well qualified
3 = qualified
2 = possibly qualified
1 = no recommendation

Thus a score of 3 or better represents a passing grade on an exam, although not all colleges offer credit to students who make 3s. Scores of 4 and 5 demonstrate particularly fine work, and many colleges offer credit of some sort to students who score in this range.

The percentages of students who pass a given AP exam vary from subject to subject, but roughly a third of the national exams earn scores of 4 or 5, a third earn 3s, and a third earn 1s or 2s. Baylor scores have been considerably higher.

The current fee to take an Advanced Placement exam is $87. This fee normally increases a dollar or two each year. Students on financial aid may apply to the College Board and to the school for fee reduction. Students interested in fee reduction should consult with Beth Hansard, Baylor's AP coordinator.

Enrollment in Advanced Placement Courses
When department heads sit down with their colleagues to determine enrollment in AP courses, they seek students who have demonstrated in previous classes their academic ability, maturity, and enthusiasm. They also seek students who have an excellent chance of making a 3 or higher on the AP exam. Additionally, students must indicate their interest in an AP course by signing up for it when they register for classes; the school does not require any student, no matter how able, to participate in the AP program and therefore does not automatically register students for AP courses.

In judging whether a student is prepared to enroll in an AP course, faculty members rely on several kinds of information. Most important are a candidate’s academic background, grades, and teacher recommendations. A student doing A work in an honors section who is wholeheartedly recommended by his or her current teacher will almost certainly earn admission to the corresponding AP course.

Students doing A or high B work in regular sections or B work in advanced sections are also strong candidates for AP placement. In determining whether such students are academically prepared, faculty may consider students’ scores on standardized tests, in particular the PSAT. Multiple-choice sections are a significant part of every Advanced Placement test, and often these sections are weighed more heavily than the time spent on them would suggest. Thus the ability to do well on standardized tests is an important factor in AP success. In many cases, there is a strong correlation between PSAT scores and scores on various AP exams. Therefore, in considering a student’s academic ability and likelihood of success on an AP test, departments may review relevant standardized test scores, and in signing up for an AP course, a student accords to the appropriate department head the right to review such scores.

If candidates’ status remains uncertain, department heads are free to ask for additional evidence of ability and motivation; for example, they may require students to write an AP-style essay.

Selecting students for an AP course is an art, not a science. What the school seeks is a match between a demanding course taught by an enthusiastic teacher, on the one hand, and on the other hand, able students excited to meet the challenges of that course.

Some AP Policies
Over the years the school has evolved a number of policies to encourage and support the Advanced Placement program:

  • The school requires students in AP classes to sign a contract indicating their seriousness of purpose and their determination to put forth their best effort.
  • Students in AP classes receive a four-point weighting in the numerical average and GPA calculation.
  • An AP course ends with the completion of the AP exam. Classes do not meet after the exam date.
  • Since the AP exam is the culmination of an AP course, the school requires that all students enrolled in an AP course take the national exam regardless of credit they may or may not receive from the colleges they attend. Scores on the AP exam are a useful measure for students of their work in an AP course, and given the frequency of transfers from one college to another, students may well benefit from an AP score that appears at first to have no practical value.
  • The school administers Advanced Placement exams for students taking the school’s AP courses. It also administers exams under the following circumstances:
    • A student may seek permission to take an AP exam in a course not offered by the school by meeting with the grade dean by October 1 and presenting a detailed plan of exam preparation.
    • A student whose native language is not English may seek permission to take the AP exam in his or her native language even if the student does not take the AP course in that language; the student must meet with the grade dean during the first semester to request administrative approval.
    • Students in regular sections whose performance may warrant their taking an AP exam should consult with their teachers about a plan of exam preparation; if they receive the teacher's recommendation, they should meet with the grade dean no later than November 1 to seek administrative approval to take the exam.
  • Students who must miss an AP exam because of an unavoidable conflict should discuss this matter with the grade dean as soon as the conflict develops. A student who misses the regular administration of an AP exam must take the alternate exam, which may result in an additional fee as determined by the AP program.

Four other policies address the issue of students who are experiencing difficulties in an AP class:

  • The school discourages students from transferring out of an AP course. A student feeling overwhelmed should talk to his or her AP teacher and to the grade dean; the student may withdraw only with the approval of those two people.
  • If in the judgment of an AP teacher and grade dean, a student fails to live up to the AP contract, he or she may be dismissed from the class.
  • If a senior drops an AP class, the school is required to report the change in the student's class schedule to the colleges to which the student has applied.
  • Students whose performance deteriorates as the end of an AP course approaches may be required to take a teacher's exam as well as the AP exam. This determination is reached by the teacher, department head, and grade dean.

The AP Contract
To be sure that students enter AP courses with an awareness of the level of commitment that they are making, the school asks that students and parents read and sign an AP contract for those courses at the beginning of the school year. A copy of the contract follows.

The AP contract