News From the Students, For the Students

The Griffin Gazette

News From the Students, For the Students

The Griffin Gazette

News From the Students, For the Students

The Griffin Gazette

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Why the fee for AP exams is different in every school district

Why are AP exams $98 for Los Al students but more expensive in other California school districts?
A+student+begins+to+take+a+difficult+multiple+choice+test.
Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu via Unsplash
A student begins to take a difficult multiple choice test.

LOS ALAMITOS, CA – Across the United States, many high school students decide to take AP classes for a variety of reasons. Some of the most notable reasons are to get ahead in their education, better their time management skills, and to stand out to the colleges that they choose to apply to.

However, most students are unaware of the cost differences of the exam; it typically depends on the school district, state, or even country. For the 2024 AP exams, each AP test was priced at $98 for Los Alamitos High School students. Last year’s 2023 AP exam was priced at $97, and the previous year it was priced at $96. 

“It’s gone up almost a dollar a year for the past two years,” said Mr. Platt, Los Al’s AP exam coordinator.

Why are AP exams so expensive?

These prices bring one specific question to mind. Why do AP exams cost so much? The biggest reason is that there are many different factors that go into making and distributing an AP test. Each academic year, the exam price increases, and the exam fee cost is based on the time spent researching each course’s specific skills, printing the exams, and grading each exam.  

“You have to think about the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of exams that are taken every single year and what it costs to make them,” Mr. Platt said. “[College Board] has to deal with those costs as well.” 

In other school districts, some schools pay the exam fee for the students. This is primarily because there is different funding, either given by the state or country, depending on the school. The different state or federal funding that a school district receives in an area can allow them to cut down on the cost of the exams, but this isn’t always the case. For some schools, they can add a processing fee, but Los Al only charges students and families the exam fee. 

“We say $98, and I don’t put an additional fee on anything unless you are doing the exam only. I do an administrative charge of $7 on the exam [if] you are in the class and just want to take the exam,” Mr. Platt said. “Some schools add a processing fee, [and] that’s up to them. For our basic exams, we don’t do that. [It’s typically] a school or district decision.”

When it comes down to it, the price of the exam is completely the choice of a district and based on College Board, who took over AP exam administration in 1955. Students have to pay the fee for each exam and not just one exam because of College Board’s yearly revenue made from administering exams. According to Total Registration, College Board’s total revenue for 2021 was $983,201,971 after distributing 4,578,302 exams. They increase their price and cash investments based on the total revenue they collect from administering AP exams yearly. 

The different prices of AP exams in California

Each district has a specific school code that they use for their exams, and most schools let students know in advance what to expect for the price. While most schools post it on their school website, it can sometimes be revealed closer to the middle of the first semester. 

At Millikan High School in the Long Beach Unified School District, AP exams are priced at $5. Fortunately for students, they are priced this low because the school wants to give students an opportunity to take an AP class even if they are unable to afford the $98 test. 

California High School, a public high school in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, has their AP exams priced at $135 each. While they use a different system from Los Al known as APTS, Achievement Point Test Service, they also add a 3.1% online payment fee to the exam cost.

A Catholic high school in Torrance, Bishop Montgomery High School, prices each AP exam at $105. The AP exams for this high school are billed directly to a student’s tuition account. This high school also expects students to take an AP exam if they are in an AP class; only in rare cases can students opt out. 

Monta Vista High School, a public high school in Cupertino, prices their AP exams based on format. Regular exams (AP Chemistry, AP English Language, AP Calc AB/BC, etc.) are priced at $120 each. Special format exams (World Languages, Music Theory, Studio Art) are priced at $130 each.

In the end, the costs of the AP exams can be a hardship, especially because students typically take more than two. The benefits of AP exams can outweigh the hefty price tag, but it’s also entirely subjective depending on the student and what they want to do in their high school career.

I would say that taking the test is like finishing the race. You take the class and I would always say ‘Yeah, take the test. See how you did.'”

— Mr. Platt, Los Al's AP exam coordinator

Student Opinions

Despite the reasoning behind the cost of AP exams, many students who are taking AP exams in 2024 argue that the cost is unjustifiably expensive. 

“I’m taking AP Calculus BC, APUSH [AP US History], AP Psychology, and AP [English] Language, [and] it is so expensive for each exam,” said Olivia Inanaga, a junior.

“[I’m taking] AP Psychology, AP Calculus BC, APES [AP Environmental Science], and AP English Lang, [and] I think that exams are overpriced, especially since the prices have increased even since last year,” said Tristen Tanimura, a junior. 

Both Inanaga and Tanimura agreed that College Board is taking advantage of the hard work that students put in for AP tests. Even if a person is fortunate enough to be able to pay the fee for all of their exams without any financial difficulties, it should not be as expensive as what College Board is currently charging. When asked their take on what the cost should be, both girls gave insightful answers. 

“For all the effort on the students’ part and especially because College Board claims to be a nonprofit organization, the exam should be around $50 to $60,” Inanaga said. “[It should be] enough to pay all the graders but also affordable enough for students.

“I think that College Board really just wants more money to be able to expand their power and influence over the school system,” Tanimura said. “Sure, some of the money goes toward the necessary payments for the exams themselves, but I think they are charging way more than they need to.”

The unchanging cost of AP exams 

Even with College Board’s conflicting statements about the A.P. program [helping] all students, regardless of scores, do better in college,” many scholars are expecting College Board to increase the amount of AP exams distributed every year. They have already started to push the development of new courses, such as AP Pre-Calculus, and continue to enrich the values instilled with taking AP exams. 

“In my opinion, it’s weird to make students pay almost $100 for a test that they have to put so much work in for. It’s almost deterring students from taking more AP’s because even though they’re prepared for it, the price tag is discouraging,” Inanaga said.

Unfortunately for students, College Board is unlikely to lower their costs and students can expect the cost to keep increasing in coming years.

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Nandi Smith, Staff Writer
Nandi Smith is a senior at Los Alamitos High School. This is her first year in Journalism, and she chose to be a staff writer because she has a passion for writing and trying new things. Nandi has a passion for drawing, traveling, and speaking other languages like Spanish and Arabic. Her favorite subject is English because through reading, she loves to learn about different time periods and eras. This year, she looks forward to writing, exploring her passions in design, photography, and other activities on campus. You can contact Nandi at [email protected].
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