Changing the role of AP at MIT


MIT is revamping its core curriculum in a number of key ways, most surprising (maybe) of which is the elimination of AP credit for any required course except calculus:

The committee [charged with revamping the curriculum] also enters the growing debate nationally about AP credit — and suggests a change in MIT’s policy of letting individual departments decide whether or not to let students count AP credit toward various requirements. The committee notes that MIT historically has recognized that some students benefit from advancing rapidly in their educations, in part through the use of AP credit. But the committee says that there is “a growing body of evidence” that students who earn top AP scores and place out of institute introductory courses ending up having “difficulty” when taking the next course. The exception to this is calculus, where a top score does typically indicate that a student is prepared for the next course at MIT.

The move seems targeted specifically at science courses, but it sounds like they are referring to any required course, including humanities and social science courses. Either way, this seems like something of a “no confidence” vote in the AP system, and I wonder if other schools — and those who create and use the AP courses in high schools — will take note.

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, High school, Higher ed, Math

One response to “Changing the role of AP at MIT

  1. Jason

    Actually, as of now only two other courses actually offer AP credit (biology and physics C), and only if you make a 5, and only one semester of credit. So it’s “targeted at science courses” by default. I don’t know that they’ve ever given AP credit for humanities classes, since they don’t really have the survey-lecture 101 courses those would correspond to.

    The extent to which it’s a loss of confidence depends, I think, on how much you expect the MIT intro course to match the “average” course. I don’t think a single syllabus can really accommodate the whole range of universities completely; some schools go at a slower pace and some go much faster, and they all cover somewhat different material.

    Case in point: single-variable calculus is two semesters at most universities, which is how the BC exam is planned. Many schools pace it over three. MIT does it in one. (If you pass the AB exam, they have a special course-and-a-half that covers single-variable, multivariable, and vector calculus). I think it’s pretty impressive that the BC exam does as well as it does in satisfying everyone.

    Not that you asked, but I’m sure you’ll be interested: the MIT calculus offerings.
    (18.xx designates a math class. All courses are semesters unless noted.)
    18.01 – Single-variable calculus.
    18.014 – with theory (uses Apostol)
    18.01A/18.02A – Second half of 18.01, all of 18.02. Continues into January.
    18.02 – Multivariable calculus, including Stokes and applications.
    18.022 – “at greater depth” – I don’t know what’s different about this one.
    18.023 – with numerical applications
    18.024 – with theory

    Another thought: it’s probably not as harsh as it sounds — the good students who learned the material thoroughly (and know they did) can take the advanced-standing exam when they get to MIT. This may just provide the rest an opportunity to take the course as a “refresher”, without feeling they’re wasting their time or somehow losing face.