In 2006, over one million students took over two million AP examinations. Many high schools in the United States offer AP courses, though the College Board allows any student to take the examination without participating in the course. Therefore, home-schooled students and students from schools that do not offer AP courses have an equal opportunity to take the examination. As of the 2008 testing season, exams cost $80 each, though the cost may be subsidized by local or state programs. Financial aid is available for students who qualify for it; the exam reduction is usually $25 per exam. On April 3, 2008, it was announced that four AP courses - Italian Literature, French Literature, Latin Literature, and Computer Science AB - would be discontinued after the 2008-2009 school year due to lack of funding.
These scores are obtained with a bell curved grading scale - thus students are scored competing against each other rather than on a set standard.
These scorings are used by some colleges to exempt students from introductory coursework if they demonstrate mastery through an AP test. Each college's policy is different (see link below), but most accept scores of 4 or 5, and some accept scores of 3. On the student's college transcript, the course is given a simple CR or other generic grade to indicate that the student has received credit for the course, although some colleges and universities will award an A grade for a 5 score.
In some high schools with an exam exemption policy, an AP Exam can be taken in place of the school's final exam and the final grade given to the student in that case is the final quarter/semester grade without the exam. The AP exam is rarely used as a course grade because the AP exam scores are published in mid-July, while many schools issue their final grade earlier in the year. Some teachers encourage success on the AP test by offering after-the-fact grade boosts for certain scores.
Some schools have policies that allow the AP Exam grade to override a grade earned in the course. A typical scale is as follows:
Individual teachers may have their own policy in this respect.
This is usually only used when an exam grade's letter value is greater than that of the grade earned in the course.