Illinois Continues to See Strong Minority and Low-Income Participation on AP Exams

State’s minority and low-income participation continues to outpace national average, with these groups showing record gains in test scores


SPRINGFIELD, IL— Illinois minority and low-income student participation in Advanced Placement exams continues to exceed the national average, with students showing record gains on these rigorous, college-level tests.

“By working to improve access to AP courses for all students, Illinois schools are helping a more diverse group of students earn credit and/or move into more advanced classes once they enter college,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “I appreciate the work educators across the state are doing to include more students in AP.”

Description: 2015 AP College Board Program ResultsIn Illinois, 105,205 students took at least one AP exam in 2015, compared to 99,171 in 2014 and 78,654 in 2011, according to the 2015 College Board Program Results. Twenty-five percent of Illinois AP test takers were low-income students, compared to the national low-income participation rate of 22.1 percent.

Of the state’s 2015 pool of test takers, 28.2 percent were underrepresented minority students. Nationally, this student group made up 26.2 percent of AP examinees. Mexican American students comprised 14 percent of all public school AP examinees in Illinois and 9.4 percent of national public school test takers. The percent of Illinois black AP examinees exceeded the national percentage of 8.3 by more than a percentage point at 9.4 percent.

Statewide, 65.7 percent of AP exam takers scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam in May 2015. The College Board and the American Council on Education (ACE) recommend that colleges and universities award credit for AP scores of 3 and higher on any AP exam. Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that requires higher education institutions to accept AP exam scores of 3, 4, or 5 for credit toward degree requirements starting in the 2016-17 school year. According to the College Board, research shows that students who achieve a 3 or higher are more likely to have higher grade-point averages in college, are more likely to earn their college degree on time in four years, and have higher graduation rates. Sixteen other states award college credit statewide or system-side to students who earn a 3 or higher on AP exams, according to the College Board report.

In Illinois, 51.7 percent of Hispanic AP Exam takers scored 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam, while half of the nation’s Hispanic examinees scored at least a 3. The number of Mexican American public school students scoring 3 or higher in Illinois grew by 12.9 percent over last year, while the number of Illinois black public school students earning at least a 3 grew by 7.7 percent from 2014.

Advanced Placement exams measure a student’s content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines. The College Board’s just-released national report provides data from the 2015 Advanced Placement exam administration.

Other highlights of the 2015 College Board Program Results are:

  • In Illinois, 69,111 students scored 3 or higher on an AP exam in 2015, compared to 65,069 in 2014 and 51,964 in 2011.
  • In Illinois, 5,728 or 4 percent of students from the class of 2015 took the SAT, compared to 6,468 students (4.6 percent) in last year’s graduating class and 7,819 (5.2 percent) in the class of 2011.
    • 17.7 percent of Illinois SAT takers were underrepresented minority students, compared to 16 percent in 2014 and 14.5 percent in 2011.
    • 4,538 or 79.2 percent of SAT examinees in the class of 2015 met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark

  • In 2014, 62,098 Illinois students took the PSAT/NMSQT, compared to 58,648 in 2013 and 60,457 in 2010.
    • 12,863 (62.5 percent) 10th-grade PSAT/NMSQT takers in 2014 were on track for college readiness
    • 26,166 (67.2 percent) 11th-grade PSAT/NMSQT examinees in 2014 were on track for college readiness.