Hawaii’s public schools making across-the-board gains in AP exams

article top
Graphic by Emily Metcalf

REPORT FROM THE DOE – More Hawaii public school students are succeeding in Advanced Placement (AP) exams than ever before, while participation in the rigorous courses is growing at a faster rate than in most states, according to a national report released today by the College Board.

The 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation shows Hawaii’s public school system has seen across-the-board gains in the number of students taking AP exams, total exams taken, and scores that qualify students for college credit – in line with a national trend. Succeeding in AP is defined as achieving a score of 3 or higher on the five-point AP Exam scale, which is the score needed for credit, advanced placement or both at the majority of colleges and universities.


“Our commitment to provide more opportunities for students to take AP exams is clearly paying off,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Schools and students are embracing the rigor of AP courses and successfully completing challenging coursework that will prepare graduates for college and careers.”

Approximately 11.4 percent of Hawaii’s graduating class scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam, compared with 19.5 percent nationally. However, Hawaii is expanding access to AP faster than the national average, more than doubling the number of high school graduates taking AP exams in the last decade – an effort that drew national praise from College Board Senior Vice President Andrea Mainelli during a regional conference last year.

In the 2011-2012 school year, about 4,700 Hawaii public schools students took some 6,700 AP exams, with about 2,600 students earning scores of 3 or above. Over the last five years, DOE schools have seen a 48 percent increase in AP exams taken and a 35 percent increase in the number of students scoring 3 or above. Mililani High School led the state with students scoring 3 or above on 398 exams last year. Other high schools enrolling large numbers of students in AP courses and posting high scores include Campbell, Moanalua, Roosevelt and McKinley high schools.

Another encouraging sign: AP participation and success also is growing for Hawaii’s low-income students. In 2012, 756 low-income students graduated having taken an AP exam, up from 553 the year before, while the number of students scoring 3 or higher jumped to 249 from 195 during the same period.
Nationally, some 954,000 high school graduates took AP exams in 2012, a 30 percent increase from the class of 2011. More than 573,000 high school graduates scored 3 or better, or 18 percent more than the previous year.

The AP program offers college-level content and examinations to high school students. AP courses are offered in 34 subjects nationally, and the accompanying end of course exams are scored on a scale of one to five. The College Board, which administers the tests, labels scores of 3 and above as being worthy of college-credit. Hawaii’s public school students took AP exams in 30 of the 34 offered subjects with English Language and Composition being the most popular test. English Literature and Composition, Psychology, Calculus AB and United States History were the next most popular exams, respectively.

To view the national AP report, please visit:

Hawaii-specific information can be found here: