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AP Course and Exam Development

College faculty are involved in every aspect of AP, particularly in AP course and exam development and standards alignment.

These faculty members ensure that courses and exams meet colleges’ expectations of students who complete comparable college courses.

Development Committees

The AP Program is unique in its reliance on Development Committees. These committees, made up of an equal number of college faculty and experienced secondary AP teachers from across the country, are essential to the preparation of AP course curricula and exams.

Development Committees:
  • Develop course curriculum
  • Determine the general content and ability level of each exam
  • Determine requirements for course syllabi
  • Write and review exam questions

Committee members also guide and review the research and data analyses undertaken to ensure that AP courses and exams adhere to high academic standards for proficiency and excellence. In particular, they review the results of curriculum studies and standard-setting studies conducted at representative colleges to ensure alignment of course and exam content and skills with parallel college courses. Learn more about the role of these studies in AP exam score setting.

Courses typically undergo a two- to three-year development process before they are implemented in classrooms. They are regularly reviewed thereafter.

Learn more about the process for developing redesigned courses and exams and visit a course and exam page to see the list of Development Committee members for that subject.

Exam Development

Exam questions are developed by Development Committees and content experts, in collaboration with assessment specialists.

Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions are written solely by the college faculty who teach college courses that correspond to a particular AP course. These faculty, along with content experts, ensure that:

  • Questions adhere to standards of quality and fairness
  • Questions are of appropriate difficulty for the test-taking population
  • Each exam will distinguish among students with different levels of knowledge and skills

A percentage of multiple-choice questions from prior exams are reused every year, guaranteeing the statistical reliability of each AP Exam from year to year.

Free-Response Questions

Most free-response questions are created by the Development Committee and analyzed by content experts. Once a question is chosen for inclusion in an exam, it goes through several rounds of review and revision by the committee, typically taking up to two years. Each free-response question on an AP Exam is unique and used only once.

Once the exam is constructed, definitions of the knowledge and skills required to earn scores of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on an AP Exam are derived from standard settings and college comparability studies. These processes ensure that AP Exam outcomes align with college faculty expectations. Learn about how AP scores are set.