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As part of our commitment to continually enhance AP's alignment with current best practices in college-level learning, we’ve evaluated and redesigned many courses and exams.

The redesign process, built upon the current strengths of the program, is a collaboration among college faculty, AP teachers, and learning and assessment specialists to support the development of the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in subsequent courses in the discipline at the college level.

Hallmarks of the redesigned courses and exams:

  • A greater emphasis on discipline-specific inquiry, reasoning, and communication skills
  • Rigorous, research-based curricula, modeled on introductory college courses, that strike a balance between breadth of content coverage and depth of understanding.
  • Standards informed by:
    • Recommendations of national disciplinary organizations
    • Results of curriculum studies conducted at four-year institutions
    • Leading pedagogical and measurement practices
  • Detailed curriculum frameworks, which tie the discipline-specific concepts, themes, and skills to a set of key learning objectives and emphasize conceptual understanding
  • Exam questions designed to elicit evidence of student achievement for each learning objective.

Curriculum Framework Development

Curriculum framework development adopts the methodology of Understanding by Design®, which proposes that curriculum design should begin with clearly defined learning outcomes and then articulate the evidence needed to confirm that the learning outcomes have been met.

The process begins by asking:

  • What do students need to know and be able to do at the end of the course?
  • What evidence is needed to show that students have developed the knowledge and skills?

A hallmark of the redesigned AP courses and exams is the pairing of key concepts with skills essential to success in the introductory-level college course. The result of this pairing is a learning objective. Detailed curriculum frameworks describe the learning objectives that students must master, grouping them into overarching themes and concepts.

For example, broad themes articulated by the AP Biology curriculum framework are called Big Ideas; they are supported by additional themes and concepts as articulated in the learning objectives.

Big Idea 1: The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.

Big Idea 2: Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.

Big Idea 3: Living systems store, retrieve, transmit and respond to information essential to life processes.

Big Idea 4: Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

Exam Development

Like most AP Exams, the redesigned AP Exams are a mix of multiple-choice and free-response questions. All questions are constructed to measure skills and knowledge using the evidence-centered-design approach, which parallels the curriculum’s understanding-by-design approach.

Exam development begins by asking:

  1. What claims do we want to make about students whose exam scores have predictive validity for their success in sequent college course work?
  2. What evidence must we elicit from students to support the claims?
  3. What assessment tasks can we design that will give students the opportunity to provide evidence of the claims?