Sophomore Tanay Kothari started his academic career a couple steps ahead of the crowd — 49.1 steps, to be exact.
Kothari, who took 13 Advanced Placement exams in high school, plans to graduate in two and a half years, a move that will save him thousands of dollars in tuition. On Jan. 23, The American Council on Education published a report calling for universities to renew efforts to make college degrees more attainable by expanding the use of previous coursework, including College Board’s Advanced Placement exams.
But following Dartmouth College’s announcement this past November that it would no longer grant academic credit for AP exam scores, UC Berkeley students and faculty remain uncertain of the AP system’s educational merit.
In an informal study, Dartmouth’s department of psychological and brain sciences found that 90 percent of students who had passed the AP Psychology exam failed a test to place out of the introductory psychology course, according to Dartmouth spokesperson John Cramer.
Although Kothari says he is grateful for having the ability to expedite his undergraduate degree, he said he agrees with Dartmouth’s decision to not accept AP credit.
“AP courses did benefit me a lot and are clearly helping me graduate early, but I would agree with Dartmouth’s view,” he said. “It’s a good idea in theory and helps high school students get prepared, but it’s not a proxy for what you learn in college.”
For many departments at UC Berkeley, AP credits primarily help clear out notoriously long waitlists for introductory courses, according to professor Martha Olney, who teaches in the department of economics.
At Dartmouth, according to sophomore Katie Wheeler, students who bypass introductory classes often struggle with more advanced coursework.
“As an instructor, I think they would be better served to use more of those classes on campus,” Olney said. “But as a parent, I understand the pressure students have of getting out in three years due to financial concerns.”
Still, Olney said she encourages students who have passed the AP economics courses to skip Economics 1.
“I think that students who are going to do an economics major are probably ready to step into 100A or 100B with AP,” she said.
The opinion of UC officials has historically carried special weight with the College Board due to the sheer number of students enrolled in the University of California.
“I chaired the (College Board) redesign commission for AP World History when it got started about six years ago,” said UC Berkeley professor Alan Karras, who teaches in the department of international and area studies. “I think that the UC could exert enormous influence and already has.”
In 2002, the College Board revised its SAT to include a writing sample after comments from UC officials proposed dropping the SAT in favor of another test that would provide a fairer comparison of students’ aptitude. The revision was one of the largest overhauls of the exam in recent history.
But, according to Academic Senate Vice Chair William Jacob, a decision on the use of AP exams at the university will not likely come too soon.
“There is a lot of conversation amongst faculty across the nation about the value of AP courses,” Jacob said. “For 25 years, it has been talked about — there’s a whole spectrum of opinions.”
Alex Berryhill covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]