The Role of Advanced Placement and Honors Courses in College Admissions


This study examines the role of Advanced Placement (AP) and other honors-level courses as a criterion for admission at a leading public university, the University of California, and finds that the number of AP and honors courses taken in high school bears little or no relationship to students’ later performance in college. AP is increasingly emphasized as a factor in admissions, particularly at selective colleges and universities. But while student performance on AP examinations is strongly related to college performance, merely taking AP or other honors-level courses in high school is not a valid indicator of the likelihood that students will perform well in college. These findings suggest that institutions may need to reconsider the use of AP as a criterion in “high stakes” admissions, particularly given the marked disparity in access to AP and honors courses among disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students.

Publication date: 
June 1, 2004
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
Geiser, S., & Santelices, V. (2004). The Role of Advanced Placement and Honors Courses in College Admissions. UC Berkeley: Center for Studies in Higher Education.