The Advanced Placement Program offers a course description and exam in statistics to secondary school students who wish to complete studies equivalent to a onesemester, introductory, non-calculus-based, college course in statistics.
Statistics and mathematics educators who serve as members of the AP Statistics Development Committee have prepared the Course Description and exam to reflect the content of a typical introductory college course in statistics. The exam is representative of such a course and therefore is considered appropriate for the measurement of skills and knowledge in the field of introductory statistics.
In colleges and universities, the number of students who take a statistics course is almost as large as the number of students who take a calculus course. A July 2002 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the enrollment in statistics courses from 1990 to 2000 increased by 45 percent — one testament to the growth of statistics in those institutions. An introductory statistics course, similar to the AP Statistics course, is typically required for majors such as social sciences, health sciences and business. Every semester about 236,000 college and university students enroll in an introductory statistics course offered by a mathematics or statistics department. In addition, a large number of students enroll in an introductory statistics course offered by other departments. Science, engineering and mathematics majors usually take an upper-level calculus-based course in statistics, for which the AP Statistics course is effective preparation.
The purpose of the AP course in statistics is to introduce students to the major concepts and tools for collecting, analyzing and drawing conclusions from data. Students are exposed to four broad conceptual themes:
1. Exploring Data: Describing patterns and departures from patterns
2. Sampling and Experimentation: Planning and conducting a study
3. Anticipating Patterns: Exploring random phenomena using probability and simulation
4. Statistical Inference: Estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses
Students who successfully complete the course and exam may receive credit, advanced placement or both for a one-semester introductory college statistics course. This does not necessarily imply that the high school course should be one semester long. Each high school needs to determine the length of its AP Statistics course to best serve the needs of its students. Statistics, like some other AP courses, could be effectively studied in a one-semester, a two-trimester or a one-year course. Most schools, however, offer it as a one-year course.