College Board Cancels Four AP Examinations

Future generations of students may arrive less prepared for college, following the discontinuation of four Advanced Placement (AP) exams.

The College Board—the organization that administers tests like the SAT and AP exams—announced earlier this month that it will cancel four AP tests after the 2008-2009 school year: AP Latin Literature, AP French Literature, AP Computer Science AB, and AP Italian.

For three of these courses, the College Board offers another AP exam in the same subject area.

AP French Language and AP Latin: Vergil will continue to be offered after these changes.

The College Board cannot continue to offer two exams in each of these areas while simultaneously working toward its new goal of increasing support for teachers in these subjects, Jennifer L. Topiel, the executive director of communications, wrote in an e-mail.

Elvira G. DiFabio, associate director of undergraduate studies in Italian, said that the suspension of the AP Italian exam will affect students pursuing a secondary field in Italian, because they may have to start at a lower level than if they had experience in an advanced Italian course in high school.

“We’re really nipping the Italian program in the bud,” DiFabio said.

DiFabio noted that, unlike for French and Latin, there is no other Italian AP exam offered.

“They’re taking everything away from Italian,” DiFabio said.

Topiel said that the low levels of participation from students and teachers made it unfeasible to continue to sustain the exam, which is in only its third year. But if an external source of funding can be found within the next year, the exam will be continued for another three-year period, she added.

Classics Department Chair John M. Duffy said he did not think the cancellation of the AP Latin Literature exam would have much of an effect on students choosing to concentrate in the Classics at Harvard.

He said that students could still be placed into Latin classes based on the AP Latin: Vergil exam and could study the authors who would have been covered in AP Latin Literature during their time at Harvard.

“We can’t be certain, but my overall assessment is that it’s not likely to have any major repercussions,” Duffy said.

Philip A. Petrou ’09, who took both AP Latin exams in high school, said that Catullus, one of the primary authors studied in AP Latin Literature, is enjoyable and understandable for high school students, and that having taken both exams can help students who decide to pursue advanced standing.

“The cancellation is definitely putting a lot of students who studied Latin at advanced levels in high school at a disadvantage, especially because colleges give credit for APs,” Petrou said.

AP Computer Science AB will be survived by AP Computer Science A, which tests less material.

According to Topiel, the number of students taking the AP Computer Science AB test in the last five years has decreased every year by an average of 8 percent, leading to the decision to stop offering it.

A new committee is also working to determine if changes need to be made to the AP Computer Science A exam so that it parallels corresponding college courses. If any changes are made, they will be announced before fall 2009, Topiel said.

­—Staff writer Alissa M. D’Gama can be reached at