AP at a Glance

Get an overview of the AP Program and how it works.

The Advanced Placement® Program (AP) enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school.

The AP Program develops college-level courses that high schools can choose to offer and corresponding AP Exams that are administered once a year.

See how your school can offer AP courses.

Fast Facts

  • AP courses are available in seven subject categories.
  • Each AP course is modeled on a comparable introductory college course in the subject. Learn how AP courses are developed.
  • Each course culminates in a standardized college-level assessment, or AP Exam.
  • AP Exams are given in May each year at testing locations all over the world.
  • Schools must be authorized by the AP Course Audit to offer approved AP courses and use the “AP” designation.


Taking AP courses and exams can help students:

  • Stand out on college applications. AP courses on a student’s transcript show that they’ve challenged themselves with the most rigorous courses available to them. And success on an AP Exam shows that they’re ready for college-level coursework.
  • Earn college credit and/or skip introductory courses in college. Most four-year colleges and universities in the United States—as well as many institutions in more than 100 other countries—grant students credit, placement, or both for qualifying AP Exam scores. Search credit policies by college.

Learn more about how AP benefits students.

How It Works

Teachers Design Their Own AP Courses

The AP Program does not supply syllabi for AP courses. We supply a detailed set of expectations about what content a college-level course in that subject should cover. AP teachers design their own syllabi with these standards in mind. (They can also choose to use existing, approved syllabi.) We review each course design through a process called the AP Course Audit before authorizing your school to call the course “AP.”

The fact that teachers design their own AP courses—within guidelines that ensure that each course meets standards for college-level instruction—makes AP flexible and accessible for students and schools.

Learn more about the AP Course Audit.

AP Exams Assess Knowledge and Skills Learned in the Course

Each AP course concludes with an AP Exam. These assessments are designed by the same expert committee that developed the course. 

AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 by college and university professors and experienced AP teachers. Many U.S. colleges offer credit for AP Exam scores of 3 or higher.

The exams are administered at authorized schools and test centers. Most high schools that offer AP courses choose to administer AP Exams to their own students as well as external AP students. Schools that opt not to administer AP Exams can refer students to another AP testing location.

Learn how AP Exams are developed and scored.

Get your school approved to administer AP Exams.

Which Students Should Take AP?

All students who are willing and academically prepared to accept the challenge of a rigorous academic curriculum should be considered for admission to AP courses.

College Board encourages the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP courses for students from ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the AP Program. Schools should make every effort to ensure that their AP classes reflect the diversity of their student population.

Certain AP courses have prerequisites. For example, students taking AP Physics 1 should have completed geometry and be taking Algebra 2 or an equivalent course. Check the individual course pages to see this information.

Who Can Teach AP?

There are no formal requirements or mandatory professional development for teachers of AP courses, with the exception of teachers of AP Seminar and AP Research, who must complete a summer workshop and online training.

However, even if it’s not required for your course, we strongly recommend that AP teachers take part in professional learning programs in their subject area before teaching the AP course for the first time, and periodically thereafter.

Explore professional learning opportunities for AP teachers and coordinators.

About Us

College Board’s AP Program is a collaborative community of AP teachers and students, states, districts, schools, colleges, and universities committed to the daily work of developing college-level knowledge and skills. We’ve been delivering excellence in education to millions of students across the country since 1955.