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Can I Get My Ap Essay Scores

For some students, the hardest part of standardized tests isn’t the prep work. It isn’t the test-taking strategies or the test-day jitters either. Nope, for lots of high schoolers nationwide, the hardest part of standardized tests is the agonizing wait between test day and the day you receive your scores.


For some tests, like the SAT, you know from the moment you sign up for the test exactly when you can expect the results back. For other tests, like the ACT, you are given a window of time in which you can expect to access your scores. But for AP exams, you won’t know the date of your score release until much closer to exam day, and scores are typically not released until July (for tests you take in May!).


The waiting game can be excruciating if you’re waiting to find out if you’ll be eligible for college credit or advanced standing. You’ve no doubt put months of work into preparing for your exams so it’s completely natural to experience some impatience when awaiting your results.


So why are the results from AP exams released several months after the actual test date? What happens to your test between the moment you turn it in and the moment your score pops up on a computer screen up to three months later? If you’re curious about how AP exams are scored and how to interpret your score, read on.


How Are AP Exams Scored?

Most AP exams consist of two parts: the multiple-choice section and the free-response section. Due to their inherently different natures, the two sections of the exam are graded separately and in different manners.


The multiple-choice section of your exam is graded first, and this job is done completely by a computer that scans your answer sheet and records the number of correct responses. You are not penalized for wrong answers, so it is always best to guess on the multiple-choice section even if you aren’t sure of the right answer. Your multiple-choice raw score is simply the number of questions you got correct.


The scoring process for the free-response section is much more involved. These questions, usually essays or open-ended questions, are scored at the annual AP Reading held each year during the first two weeks of June. At this giant convention, specially appointed college professors and experienced AP teachers gather to read the tens of thousands of AP free-responses produced by students each year. This is the first reason why your scores take so long to come back — the AP Reading does not take place until nearly a month after APs are administered.


As AP readers evaluate your free-response answers, they use a set of universal scoring criteria developed for each specific prompt. Most free-response answers are scored on a scale between one and nine, with one being least effective and nine being nearly perfect. Some shorter questions are graded on a smaller scale. AP readers will evaluate your response using the scoring criteria provided for that prompt and will award you between one and nine points for your answer.


To review specifically how free responses have been graded in the past for subject areas you’re interested in, visit the AP Central homepage for each course and follow the link to the Free-Response Questions index. Here you can read authentic student responses from past exams, along with scoring criteria and actual scoring explanations from AP readers for each one.


Once both sections of your exam have been graded, their total scores are combined, according to the weight of each section, to form your composite score. These composite, or raw, scores are then translated into a five-point scale using statistical processes designed to ensure that, for example, a score of four this year reflects the same level of achievement as a score of four on last year’s exam. In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.


Although it’s impossible to know exactly what work goes into the statistical design for converting composite scores to the five-point scale, an example of the conversion process for a previous version of the AP English Literature Exam is available here.


Why Do Some Exams Have Subscores?

Two AP exams currently have subscores: the AP Calculus BC exam and the AP Music Theory exam. These are designed to give colleges and universities more information about your specific abilities, which they can then use to shape decisions about class placement or credit granted.


On the AP Calculus BC exam, you will receive a subscore for Calculus AB. This is the converted score you received on the portion of the exam devoted to Calculus AB topics (which is about 60% of the exam). If you do very well on this but not well overall, colleges and universities will still know that you are capable of introductory-level calculus, but not necessarily of Calculus BC-level work.


Many institutions will apply the same policy to the Calculus AB subscore that they apply to the AP Calculus AB exam score. This is consistent with the philosophy of the courses, since common topics are tested at the same conceptual level in both Calculus AB and Calculus BC.


On the AP Music Theory exam, you will receive one aural component subscore and one non-aural component subscore. If you plan to continue studying music through your higher education, your subscores will help music departments to make appropriate decisions about credit and placement based on the separate courses for written theory and aural skills that they offer.


For students continuing study in music, subscores will be considered along with the overall score. If, however, you are seeking general humanities credit, your overall score will be used to determine your eligibility.


What Happens After My Exam is Scored?

After AP exams are scored, official score reports are compiled and distributed. These range in depth from individual student reports all the way up to national databases. A complete listing of last year’s program summaries is available. You can also learn more about what specific data is included in each report on the AP Score Reports and Data page.


Also, once all exams have been scored, your overall performance across all the AP exams will be assessed to determine if you are eligible for an AP Scholar Award. District data will also be assessed for the AP District Honor Roll.


When Will My AP Scores Be Available?

Generally, AP scores are released in the beginning of July, but the exact date that your scores will become available will vary by region. Also, if you took an exam during the late-testing period, these scores will not be available until August. In 2016, scores for the northwest region were released first and scores for the northeast region were released last. In the past, the College Board has alternated which region is released first every year.


How Can I Access My Score?

The College Board went green in 2014, so scores are available online only now. You will not be sent a paper copy in the mail. To access your online score report, you’ll need to create a College Board account if you haven’t already. If you have accessed SAT scores or other AP scores online, you already have a College Board account.


To access your score report, you’ll need to sign in to your College Board account and provide your AP number (or student ID if provided on your AP answer sheet). When you filled out your AP Student Pack, you were given an extra copy of this number and instructed to keep it in a safe place. Now is the time to put it to use.


If you’re still wondering what an AP number is, don’t worry: There is information available on the unique eight-digit AP number. If you misplaced your AP number, there is also information available on this topic.


Your AP scores will be available through your online College Board account on the day they are released.

Some kudos from my Table Leader

In early June, I put my teaching assignment on hold to work as an AP Reader in Louisville. Downtown Louisville transformed into AP central with a small army of five thousand readers representing both the AP Literature and AP Language exams. Between the two exams, the readers filled two entire downtown hotels and occupied eight massive ballrooms at the Kentucky Convention Center. For seven straight days, readers from across the nation spent eight hours a day calibrating, deliberating, and scoring boxes and boxes of essays. I worked as an AP Language reader and we collectively scored over 507,000 essays. (If you recall the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you can visualize the gargantuan task we had in front of us). Based on the data report I received at the end of the reading, I personally scored 876 essays that roughly averaged 175 essays per day. While scoring was both intellectually draining and mind numbing at the same time, there were many takeaways I had from the experience. Now my summer vacation has begun, I have the opportunity to reflect on what I learned, meditate how being a scorer ties back to my instruction, and how the AP rubric connects to the SBAC and the Common Core Writing Standards.

Takeaway #1 – Always Assume Good Intent: The AP essays are scored on a 1-9 scale. For a student to reach standard, he must earn a 5 or higher. A student earns a 1 if he “insufficiently” answers a prompt. A student earns a 9 if he does an “exceptional” job answering the prompt and demonstrates he has an extraordinary control of language. The challenge of a scorer is determining the difference between a 4, 5, or 6. A student who earns a 4 is just below standard, a student with a 5 just meets standard, and a student with a 6 writes “adequately” above standard. While the rubric clearly spells out the guidelines how to rate an essay, the big variable is “good intent.” As a reader, I must remember a human being is behind the writing. I always must be mindful of the nuggets embedded within a student’s essay that could raise his score. I remember one essay where the writing hovered between a 5 and 6 on the rubric. I planned to give the student a 5 because of numerous typos throughout the essay. Then I read the conclusion. The student attempted to insert a metaphor comparing the cost of college to a family heirloom. He wrote: “If you have ever watched Antiques Roadshow with your grandma like me, y’know hairlooms could be worth millions or meer pennies. Despite its worth, however, the value of an hairloom, like a collage education, is priceless.” I scored the essay as a 6, but I was unsure so I asked my Table Leader. She agreed and gave me kudos on a sticky for astutely mining a nugget of this writer’s good intent (see above).

Next fall, as I enter year 2 of implementing the Common Core in my curriculum I need to always assume my students best intent in their writing. As we struggle together to comprehend the standards, we need to mine for nuggets demonstrating our collective successes.

Takeaway #2 – Anchors Keep You Grounded: Everyday we began by reading anchor papers and discussing where the anchors fit within the rubric. Even when I had scored enough essays to intuitively comprehend the scoring guidelines, this exercise kept me grounded. It made me question am I objectively scoring essays? Am I scoring too leniently? Am I scoring too harshly?

I hope to work next school year with members of my PLC to norm common writing assessments before we score them. Yes, it takes more time initially to collect anchor essays and calibrate scoring as a group. However, once we have done so we will have a stack of anchors we can show our students. More importantly, our parents will know no matter which teacher their child has for English, he will be graded objectively.

Takeaway #3 – The Claim’s the Thing: If there was one item that was consistent amongst upper level essays it was the essays were all claim driven. What I mean is the student developed a strong thesis, and the evidence consistently tied back to the thesis throughout the essay. In the past there were many essays I would have given students a 5 because they attempted to connect their evidence to the thesis. But, as the Chief Reader unequivocally reminded us, “If an essay is evidence driven, it will never meet standard.”

As an English teacher, this may sound intuitive. When we teach our students writing, we spend lots of time on thesis development. But, it is more than that. One thing I will spend more time in the future with my students is showing them how to always tie their evidence back to their thesis. The SBAC Argumentative Writing Rubric clearly states in the category of focus: “The writer states a controlling idea or main idea of a topic is focused, clearly stated, and strongly maintained…communicated clearly within the context of the essay.” I want my students to understand for them to write a successful argumentative essay, their thesis must be sustained throughout their writing.

Takeaway #4 – Acknowledge the Good You are Already Doing: A majority of the essays I read were in the 4,5,6 zone. With over a half a million students who took the AP Lang exam, this should not be a surprise. Reflecting on my own AP students’ work, I truly felt that a majority of the writing I scored was representative of my AP students writing at the beginning of the school year, not at the end.

I won’t know my students’ scores until mid-July, but I am optimistic. This is a testament to the work that my AP Lang coworkers and I did throughout the year, but also to my English department, and my district. At all grade levels we have put an emphasis on reading and writing across disciplines: the work the elementary teachers have done teaching main idea; the work the middle school teachers have done explaining the five-paragraph essay; the work the freshman and sophomore teachers have done in instructing how to construct an argumentative essay. All our collective efforts, hopefully, will reap their rewards on how well our students perform on the AP exam.

The last day of school an SE teacher walked up to me and asked me if I knew one of our shared students had passed the state assessment in Reading and Writing. I admitted I hadn’t. She offered me congratulations. I smiled, and said I only deserved partial credit. The teacher’s efforts in her SE class equally benefited this student as well.

I have no doubt as we work to implement the Common Core at all grade levels, our successes will be our collective successes, and we will all cheer for our students’ collective growth.

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Filed Under: Assessment, CCSS, Classroom Assessment, Common Core State Standards, Student Work, Task Engagement, Transition to Writing, Writing ProcessTagged With: AP

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