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Placement & Proficiency
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FAQ on the "College and Career Success for All Students" Legislation
  1. What is AP?
    The Advanced Placement ("AP") Program is a compilation of 38 individual courses, such as English Literature or Statistics, that were designed by high school teachers and college instructors and that are taught in high schools around the country. According to the College Board, which developed the AP Program, AP “enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school.” Every May high school students can choose to take one or more standardized AP exams, which are graded by the College Board. AP test results are then reported on a scale of 1 to 5, where
    • 1 means “No recommendation”
    • 2 means “Possibly qualified”
    • 3 means “Qualified”
    • 4 means “Well qualified” and
    • 5 means “Extremely well qualified”

  2. What is IB?
    The International Baccalaureate ("IB") Diploma Programme is a two-year, holistic educational program roughly corresponding to the junior and senior years of high school in the American school system. Students earning the diploma have to study from six subject groups, three at the Standard Level and three at the Higher Level; study at least two languages; and complete a compulsory core composed of three elements (a course on the theory of knowledge, an extended essay of some 4000 words that functions as an independent research project, and "creativity, activity, and service" which entails 150 hours of community service). The Higher Level and Standard Level exams are taken in May or November, are partially graded by their teachers and partially graded by external examiners, and are scored on a scale of 1 to 7. The approximate meaning of the final scores is as follows:
    • 1 means “Very rudimentary knowledge and understanding of the question or task”
    • 2 means “Superficial knowledge and understanding of the question or task”
    • 3 means “Some knowledge and some understanding of the question or task”
    • 4 means “Adequate knowledge; some ability to develop ideas"
    • 5 means “Good understanding; logical answers but not fully developed”
    • 6 means "Very good understanding; well-developed answers"
    • 7 means "Excellent understanding and critical thinking; detailed explanations"

  3. What does this new Illinois law – amending “The College and Career Success for All Students Act” – say, in plain English?
    This new law states that all public universities and all public community colleges in the State of Illinois must begin awarding college credit to students entering the university in the 2016-2017 academic year for scores of 3, 4, and 5 on every AP exam. Beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year, they have to begin awarding college credit to incoming students with scores of 4, 5, 6, and 7 on the IB exams. The law does not affect policies for any other standardized exam.

  4. How does it impact our campus?
    It used to be that on the Urbana-Champaign campus, most (but not all) AP exams were accepted for credit, and most students earned credit for scores of either 4 or 5. Similarly, many (but not all) IB exams are currently accepted for credit, predominantly in the most commonly studied subjects (e.g., biology, chemistry, English, math), and most students earn credit for scores of 6 and 7. In keeping with the law, our campus now awards credit for scores of 3 or higher on all AP exams, and next year the campus will begin awarding credit for scores of 4 or higher on all IB exams.

  5. How does the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign determine AP and IB credit policies?
    Test-based credit policies for the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs are reviewed by campus faculty on an annual basis. Every fall the coordinator of new student placement and proficiency testing contacts the academic departments to inform them of any changes in AP and IB curricula, exams, and scoring procedures. The faculty then review this material, comparing it to their courses’ content, the tasks their students engage in, and the level of mastery that their students must demonstrate to earn passing grades in these courses. They then recommend credit policies for the next academic year, which are reviewed by the college in which the department is housed. In setting AP and IB credit policies, the goal is always to ensure to the best of our ability that students earning test-based credit for a course are as well-prepared to succeed in higher-level courses as students who actually took that course on our campus.

  6. Is it better for students to accept their AP and IB credit or take the actual course?
    Course credit earned from AP and IB exams will be posted to the student’s official academic record. Whether a student chooses to take the course anyway will very much depend on the individual student’s academic strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Students should consider the requirements of their current program as well as their future plans. For example, students who think they might go on to grad school need to be aware that many professional (e.g., medical) and graduate schools will not accept test-based credit. Instead, they require evidence that the student successfully completed the actual course at a college or university in order to be considered for admission to a graduate program. For example, they want to see “MCB 150” on the student’s transcript and not “Test-Based Credit for MCB 150." New students at Illinois can discuss this with their academic advisors when registering for first-semester classes.

  7. What’s the difference between “elective credit,” “General Education credit,” and “major credit”?
    The courses that college students take fall into three broad categories that sometimes overlap:
    • Courses that are required for their major. These courses are typically within the same field; for example, a computer science major will take computer science courses.
    • Courses that fulfill the university’s General Education requirements. Such courses serve to ensure that undergraduates get a well-rounded education by studying a well-balanced array of subjects. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we have seven Gen Ed areas:
      • Quantitative reasoning (e.g., math)
      • Composition (i.e., critical thinking and writing)
      • Social and Behavioral Sciences (e.g., anthropology, political science)
      • Natural Sciences and Technology (e.g., chemistry, biology)
      • Cultural Studies: Western/Comparative (e.g., European history)
      • Cultural Studies: Non-Western/U.S. Minority (e.g., African studies)
      • Language Other Than English (formerly known as “foreign language”)
    • Courses that are electives. Electives allow a student to explore subjects simply for the pleasure of being exposed to ideas and learning something different from what is taught in their major or Gen Ed courses. These include any courses that count towards the minimum number of hours required for graduation that do not fall into the categories of "Courses that are required for their major" or "Courses that fulfill the university's General Education requirements."

    For the purposes of this legislation discussion, major and Gen Ed credit awarded on the basis of an AP or IB test score will correspond to an actual course when the content of the AP or IB course and the student’s mastery of that material corresponds closely to the content of a course taught on this campus. For example, an AP Psychology score of 5 earns credit for our PSYC 100 course. In contrast, elective credit awarded on the basis of an AP or IB test score will typically indicate that the content of the AP or IB course does not correspond to the content of a specific course taught on this campus. For example, scores of 3, 4, and 5 on the AP Seminar exam will earn 3 hours of elective credit.

  8. When will these changes go into effect?
    The new AP policies went into effect for all new students enrolling for the first time during the 2016-2017 academic year. The new IB policies will go into effect for all new students enrolling for the first time during the 2017-2018 academic year.

  9. Can currently enrolled students get credit for their AP scores of 3 or IB scores of 4 and 5?
    No. The AP portion of the law went into effect for the 2016-2017 academic year, and so the new policies applied only to new, incoming students. The IB portion of the law will go into effect for the 2017-2018 academic year, and the new policies will apply only to new, incoming students who enroll during 2017-2018. As has been our campus’ practice for many years, the amount of AP or IB credit that currently enrolled students earned when they first enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will neither be added to nor taken away when new policies go into effect.

  10. What if a student at another institution earns credit for a test score that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign doesn’t accept (e.g., an AP score of 2)? Or what if the other institution awards credit for a specific course and this campus does not (e.g., for an AP score of 3, the other institution awards PSYC 100 credit but the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awards PSYC 1 - - elective credit)? If the student in either of these scenarios transfers to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will the course credit transfer too?
    Possibly. A student presenting test-based credit may be granted transfer credit on our campus if he or she has successfully completed:
    • At least 12 graded semester hours of transferable college-level classroom coursework from the institution or a single campus in a multi-campus institution that awarded the test credit; and
    • Advanced transferable classroom coursework in the same subject area as the test credit at the same institution awarding the credit.

If the test-based credit does not meet both of these criteria, the student may submit the original AP scores to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for evaluation.

Click here for the AP placement and proficiency credit policies that went into effect Summer 2016.

Please check back in the spring for the new IB policies.