Black Students Most Underrepresented Among AP Test Takers

In only two states is there parity between the percentage of black students graduating from high school and those taking AP exams.

By Julianne Hing Feb 13, 2014

Despite big gains in the number of AP exam test takers in the last decade, large racial gaps among test-takers persist according to a new report released by the College Board (PDF) this week. In 2013, the College Board administered 3.1 million AP exams for 1 million students, compared to the 1.3 million exams the College Board administered in 2003 for 514,163 students. Still, AP exam takers are more likely to come from wealthier families, and black students in particular are underrepresented among those who take AP tests, which offer high school students a chance to gain college-level credit. 

Nearly half, or 48.1 percent, of U.S. students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but among AP exam takers 27.5 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. Black students were 14.5 percent of the graduating class of 2013 in the U.S., but 9.2 percent of the nation’s AP exam takers. Black students are the most underrepresented racial group among AP exam takers. In only two states in the country–Hawaii and Idaho–is there parity between the two.

American Indian students were 1 percent of the 2013 U.S. high school graduating class but 0.6 percent of those who took AP exams, while Latino students made up roughly 19 percent of both the graduating class and AP exam takers. Asian American and Pacific Islander students are 5.9 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2013 but 10.7 percent of AP exam takers. White students are 58 percent of those who graduated from high school in 2013 but 56 percent of AP exam takers.

What’s more, the College Board found that nearly 300,000 students who are AP-ready haven’t taken an AP-level courses. Read the full report (PDF) for more, including state-by-state breakdowns.