The Discouraging Cost of AP Exams

Brian Hazelwood reads his AP United States History Princeton Review book. Photo by Skye Bragan.

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are extremely popular at Chamblee Charter High School. Every May, the hallways are crammed with students doing last-minute group studying to prepare for the stressful exams.

Stress is not the only cost of these exams, however. Although the cost fluctuates slightly from year to year, AP exams are never cheap.

This year, each AP exam costs $94. This cost is attributable to several factors.

“You have to pay the people who score your exams,” said Gail Barnes, assistant principal and coordinator of AP exams at CCHS. “There is also a rebate that the school retains, so with that rebate, I am able to pay my proctors and pay for teacher training.”

The large price-tag makes some people think twice about taking so many exams.

“The cost is a definite factor,” said senior Daniela Villaroel, who is taking six AP classes this semester. “If I don’t think I’ll do well on an exam, I don’t want to waste $94.”

For junior Erica Izaguirre, the cost could be worth it if a high score on the exam results in being able to receive credit or placement in a college course.

“[AP exams are] really expensive but compared to a college class – if you do actually choose to exempt from them – college is a lot more expensive, so it’s worth it if you compare it to that,” said Izaguirre, “but if you’re just taking [the class] for the GPA boost, [the exams are] too expensive.”

For students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, College Board reduces the cost of each exam to $53.

“If you are on free or reduced lunch you can either choose one free STEM exam or a discount of $25 on another exam,” said Barnes.

This year, the state of Georgia is offering every student one free AP exam in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) course.

“This is the first year since I have been coordinator that the state has changed things up,” said Barnes. “In the past they have offered one free exam to all students on free or reduced lunch, but this year they are offering one free STEM exam.”

Villaroel prefered the system that allowed all students to take a free exam, which was funded by DeKalb County.

“I think this is good for the people that are taking STEM classes,” said Villaroel, “but it kind of excludes people who are taking AP Music Theory or AP Photography [AP Studio Art].”

Izaguirre, however, believes that a push towards STEM classes is what Georgia needs.

“I think it’s great,” said Izaguirre. “There should be more people getting into STEM.”

Junior Brian Hazelwood agrees that this is likely the purpose of the change, but does not think that it works.

“I’m guessing they did the switch to encourage people to take these advanced STEM courses because of the nationwide push towards STEM-based education,” said Hazelwood. “But I think that people who are going to take those classes are going to take them anyway.”

Many wonder if one day the state of Georgia might be able to afford to offer a free exam to all students.

“That would be nice, but I don’t really see anything changing unless the state is able to find a way to save money elsewhere to afford offering more free exams,” said Hazelwood.

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