How I Passed the AP Audit
By Sheryl Olson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #83, 2008.
Sheryl Olson shares how she formulated coursework for her children which was approved by the College Board for AP credit.
|What Is an Advanced Placement Exam?
There are currently 30 AP exams.
They are only offered once a year, over several days in May.
Exams are scored from “1” (the lowest score) to “5” (the top score).
The vast majority of American colleges and universities allow course credit for certain AP scores in most subjects.
Generally, a “3” or above in, say, English Language & Composition will allow a student credit for semester one of Freshman Composition. Some schools require higher scores, while some only provide advanced placement (you get to take a more advanced course instead).
Be sure to check with your intended college as to their AP policy.
I was stupefied when I heard we could not use the “AP” designator for
Advanced Placement coursework on a student’s transcript without prior
approval of the course’s syllabus by the AP Central division of The
College Board. In effect, the letters “AP” are now copyrighted. If they
are used on a transcript without subjecting the course’s syllabus to the
AP Central’s audit service, a student could permanently lose the right
to have the AP designator on his/her transcript-ever. An online ledger
keeps track of approved AP Course providers for the benefit of college
In our family we had always homeschooled for excellence, with an eye on
making sure we had college prep coursework: the right number of English
and history classes, the right sequencing of mathematics, etc. My older
two sons had taken AP tests before the course audit process was
initiated, and I felt enabled and deserving to note AP on their
transcripts. Now it didn’t seem fair to me that our youngest three
children would not have that same advantage.
I took up the challenge to write a syllabus for the AP World History
audit. There was a special sign-in area for homeschoolers to register
for the AP Central Course Audit. The registration area for homeschoolers
had no preliminary school administrator interface, but allowed the home
educator to sign in directly to the audit account. I read about the
process of completing the audit. The AP Central page had links for a
course description, sample syllabi, and recommended texts for each AP
Subject. It was an overwhelming amount of information, but what they
asked for didn’t look that hard.
I had previously used the College Board’s website to find a recommended
text for teaching AP World History to my older sons. The textbook I
selected had a large online website through its publisher. For each
chapter it provided a multiple-choice test, map studies, discussion
questions, essay questions, and website links for exploring primary
documents online. My strategy was to create a “standard chapterly
assignment” that would cover the categories of history suggested by the
AP World History course description.
These acronyms were used to make a grid on which to hang our historical
studies: C-GRIPES or SPRITE. The major divisions of knowledge used to
categorize history with C-GRIPES are cultural, geographic, religious,
intellectual, political, economic, social. With SPRITE they are social,
political, religious, intellectual, technological, and environmental.
This is roughly how I went about structuring the class. First I choose
the textbook from those suggested by The College Board. In choosing your
text, an important factor should be how well it is supported online by
its publisher. Select the text that provides the best online study
resources. If that seems like too much work, you could do an online
survey of the various Christian schools with AP coursework and see what
textbooks are being used by them, then choose one.
Probably the most difficult requirement of the course was fitting the 40
chapters of our history book into a 34-week school year. Specifically,
the coursework needed to be equally weighted globally, with Europe
receiving no more than 30 percent of the course time and equally as far
as the five time period divisions of human history. The textbook that I
chose took 12 chapters to cover the first time period. Those 12 chapters
needed to be covered in 6 weeks! It took some planning for what our
school year would look like to finish the book in time for the May AP
Next, with a printed copy of the course description from the AP Central
website (CollegeBoard) I fit the recommended course
content into the yearly schedule under the right chapter of the text, to
act as the beginning for outlining each chapter. Finally by using some
of the online textbook’s study resources in a standardized
assignment-which included taking the tests, completing some primary
document study, and map work-I fashioned a repeating assignment that
would allow all the criteria of the course to be met.
I also scheduled five practice AP World History free response essays
into the year’s work, as well as sufficient time for my student to
learn how the essays are graded, using the rubric provided by AP
Central. After the May AP exam was complete, my student would write a
paper as well. The final details of the course were the grading
criteria, which I divided into 40 percent for the standard assignment,
40 percent for the exams and essays, 15 percent on the paper, and 5
percent for oral participation.
I spent about two months working on the syllabus. It was difficult to
get started, but once I figured out to use the course description and
apply it to the chapterly grid, it got easier. I have five children, so
I was motivated to not let the AP door close me out.
My course was approved by AP Central audit the first time through. I was
prepared to do revisions-the site even has a section committed to common
problems with syllabi. Fortunately I didn’t make any of the “common
problems” . . . or create new ones either! I had connected the dots by
using the copious resources from the audit website.
Now that my syllabus has been approved, I can use it from year to year
by accessing my AP Course audit account and renewing it with a click to
reactivate it. This history syllabus will be used by the rest of my
children as they come down through the ranks, so it was worth it to me.
The process of passing the syllabus audit was like completing a well
documented, criterion-referenced homework assignment. I would encourage
other homeschoolers to do it. Use the resources available on the
Internet to pass the AP audit and don’t be put off.
A hidden benefit of completing the audit process is that we finished all
of our coursework this year, because we had to stay on track!
Of further note, we do dual enrollment at our local community college as
well as AP classes. My older boys have had good learning experiences
with dual enrollment. However we feel pretty strongly that children need
to reach a certain maturity level to use that educational option. AP
course work can be started much younger than age 16+ years-the age I
believe should be reached before sending our children to the community
Finally be aware of your calling. When you are successful in writing
your own syllabi as I have been, consider whether God is calling you to
continue planting godly seed by teaching after your own family is grown.
Or perhaps you will follow in the steps of other parents and write books
and edit magazines. I believe the impact of homeschoolers is not just in
their offspring, but in the moms and dads who have maintained and
continued to nurture their own knowledge and wisdom and share it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I recently found out that homeschoolers who pass an
audit should save the congratulatory email which states that they have
passed the course audit. This is the only validation you will receive,
at this point in time. (There had been talk about a letter being sent.)
For privacy reasons no individual names are put into the ledger. The
approval letter is then attached to the transcript, to show validation.
Sheryl Olson holds a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Before her
family was born, she practiced in the emergency room, critical care, and
bone marrow transplant units. For the past 15 years Sheryl has totally
homeschooled her five children. One son just finished his first cadet
year at the US Air Force Academy-only four more to go!