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AP Course Audit: The Complete Guide to Success

What is an AP course audit? You’ve come to the right place.

Many high school administrators and teachers find this process overwhelming, simply because they do not know the steps to take to get it done.

In less than fifteen minutes, you can read all about how to audit an AP course from start to finish and become fully prepared to take on the task yourself.

What is an AP Course?

To answer this question, “what is an AP course audit,” we must first define the term ‘AP course.’

AP stands for Advanced Placement. Advanced Placement is a program developed and managed by the College Board.

The College Board is a non-profit organization that aims to connect students to college success and also makes the SAT.

  • In the 1950s, the College Board started the program as a way to bridge the gap between high school and college academics.
  • Today, millions of students take Advanced Placement courses every year.

AP courses are for high school students, but they are not your regular high school-level classes.

  • AP courses are designed to be the same as an introductory-level college course.

Students who take an AP class are usually able to get college credit after taking an AP exam.

Sometimes, taking an AP course allows students to be placed in more advanced classes once they get to college.

What is an AP Course Audit and Who Needs It?

Not just every class can be labeled an AP course. The College Board has strict guidelines for which courses fall under the AP umbrella.

Although going through the course audit steps might seem a bit overwhelming at first, it is actually a benefit to everyone involved.

AP course audit:

  • Allows school leaders to implement courses that will help students reach academic success
  • Provides teachers with course syllabus feedback and free practice exam
  • Ensures secondary schools and colleges that incoming students are prepared for college-level materials and instruction

Most of the difficulty of the audit process comes before you ever fill out a sheet of paper or online form.

But before we get to that step, creating a syllabus, let’s look at the first few steps in the process.

AP Course Audit Step One: Choose a Course

To begin a course audit, a course should be selected.

The AP Course and Exam Page is the place to start. This page lists AP courses and provides helpful information such as:

  • Essential resources for each course
  • Teaching strategies
  • Lesson plans
  • Exam questions
  • AP score reports

Not just any class can receive the AP designation. Courses that can receive the AP label include:

  • AP Art History
  • AP Music Theory
  • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: Drawing
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • English Literature and Composition
  • AP Comparative Government and Politics
  • AP European History
  • AP Human Geography
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Psychology
  • AP United States Government and Politics
  • AP United States History
  • AP World History
  • AP Capstone Diploma Program
  • AP Research
  • AP Seminar
  • Math & Computer Science
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Calculus BC
  • AP Computer Science A
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP Statistics
  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Physics 1
  • AP Physics 2
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • AP Chinese Language and Culture
  • AP French Language and Culture
  • AP German Language and Culture
  • AP Italian Language and Culture
  • AP Japanese Language and Culture
  • AP Latin
  • AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • AP Spanish Literature and Culture

When this should happen: early to mid-fall.

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AP Course Audit Step Two: Select a Teacher

Next, a teacher should be selected and registered for summer professional development.

  • This is especially important if the instructor is new to teaching AP courses.
  • Make sure to check state certification requirements when selecting a particular teacher to facilitate an AP course.

School leaders and curriculum directors will also want to start thinking about ways to help foster both student and teacher success.

When this should happen: mid to late fall.

AP Course Audit Step Three: Student Recruitment/Registration

In a perfect world, AP classes would fill up like regular ones.

  • But because of the added exam costs, some students/parents do not even consider courses with an ‘AP’ title.
  • This is one of the reasons that most schools start the recruitment and registration process during the late fall or early spring.

By December at the latest, school leaders should be doing the following:

  • Reviewing any updated AP course information provided by the College Board
  • Determining how the course will be offered
  • Identifying potential students for the course
  • Promoting the upcoming course to parents and students
  • Figuring out incentives to attach to the course that will encourage registration

AP Course Audit Step Four: Create Your Syllabus and Obtain Course Materials

Some curriculum planners and teachers choose to build the course earlier in the process, while others choose later.

  • Both choices have pros and cons. Taking the time to create an AP course that few students are interested in is a waste of time and resources.

However, waiting until the last minute to build a course could mean not passing the audit process.

The College Board website is a great place to begin since it contains an inventory of already created materials.

  • It is important to remember that the auditing process will not allow for ‘copy and paste’ courses.
  • Each school is responsible for creating its own course curriculum.

Since the teacher will be the one actually presenting the material, having he or she involved in the process is very valuable.

After exploring specific course resources, the educator who will teach the course will then prepare a course syllabus.

A course syllabus is more than just a class outline. It must include:

  • A course description
  • What college-level resources teachers and students will use
  • The big ideas and essential questions of the course
  • A general outline of how every content area will be taught

Teachers have two options: to create their own syllabus or adopt one of the sample syllabi provided by the College Board.

Your guide through this process will be the AP Course Audit Guide for your particular course.

The College Board recommends schools start the process of course creation by late spring although most updated course creation guides aren’t available until the end of May.

AP Course Audit Step Five: Submit Your Course Materials

Now that you are fully ready to launch your AP course, you will need to get approval. Doing so requires that the teacher of the course:

  • Create and login to their AP Course Audit Account.
  • Add the course.
  • Fill out the online AP Course Audit form.
  • Have the form signed by the AP Course Audit school administrator.
  • Upload and submit the course syllabus by January 1st. 

AP Course Audit Step Six: Review

Next, external educators will review the syllabus and course information within 8 weeks of submission.

If You Pass:

Courses that pass are listed in the AP course ledger, a comprehensive list of all AP classes that have passed the AP audit.

  • Once approved, teachers are strongly encouraged to participate in a weeklong professional training (AP Summer Institute) offered by the College Board.

If this is not an option, one-day workshops are offered during the school year as well.

If You Fail:

You must revise the syllabus and resubmit. If still not approved, teachers can get one-on-one guidance from a College Board review member.

The Re-audit Process

The AP audit process happens yearly, but only when the teacher changes do new audit forms or class syllabi need to be submitted. School leaders/teachers can renew their designation online annually.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the AP Course Audit

Can my school give AP exams without auditing a course?

Yes—However, you cannot use the AP designation on transcripts or be listed on the AP course ledger.

Can school leaders and not the teacher submit the forms and school syllabus?

One of the purposes of the AP Course audit process is to foster a mutual understanding between the College Board and teachers.

By requiring teachers to submit their own syllabus, they become more involved in the process.

Can a middles school offer AP courses?

Not generally. There are some rare exceptions with the world language and culture courses.

The AP label is only attached to classes for students in grades 9-12.

What does the audit authorization even mean?

Going through the AP audit process gives you permission to use the AP designation on your students’ transcripts, school website, and your course catalog.

Conclusion: Extra Resources for the AP Course Audit

Before launching any AP course, teachers should take advantage of a wealth of support information found online. These include:

  • Online communities for AP educators
  • Teaching resources
  • Practice exams
  • Example textbook lists
  • AP course building tools

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