What Is the AP Capstone Program?

For years, high schools across the globe have offered Advanced Placement (or AP) courses that allow students to engage with college-level curricula and potentially earn college credit. However, AP Capstone is a new diploma program that supplements these courses and focuses on scholarly research and teamwork.

Implemented by the College Board in the fall of 2014, the program is currently available in a handful of schools, with an eye toward expanding into others. It consists of three components: AP Seminar, AP Research, and four additional AP classes.

1. AP Seminar

AP Seminar is a foundational course, which means that it is often a student's first experience in the AP Capstone program. Students typically take this class during their sophomore or junior year of high school.

AP Seminar asks enrolled students to investigate multiple issues from a variety of viewpoints. During this course, students' writing abilities are developed in an environment that emphasizes scholarly discussion and evidence-based arguments. Its three primary assignments are: 1.) a team project and presentation, 2.) an individually written essay and presentation, and 3.) a written exam. The investigation of real-world issues is strongly encouraged.  

2. AP Research

The AP Research component, which is typically taken during junior or senior year as the second part of the AP Capstone program, is an opportunity for students to conduct a year-long research project. Over the course of this year, students will develop independent research skills that can assist them in their undergraduate careers. These are some tips on how to choose your AP Capstone project.

The AP Research class culminates in a scholarly academic thesis, with the central topic selected by the student. During the year, students work with a mentor to research and write their thesis paper. This paper is approximately 4,000-5,000 words in length. Here are 3 thesis stuggles and how to overcome them. Students must also complete a public presentation, performance, or exhibition that relates to the paper, as well as an oral defense. 

3. Four AP courses

In addition to completing AP Seminar and AP Research, students in this program must choose and complete four other AP classes. They can be taken during any high school semester or year, and they are flexible in regard to individual interest. (In other words, one student may take four completely different courses than another student in the AP Capstone program.) These are a few tips on when you should start taking AP classes.

If students wish to receive the AP Capstone diploma, they must earn a score of 3 or higher on the exams for these four classes. They must also earn a 3 or better in AP Seminar and AP Research. Here are 3 common mistakes to avoid on AP exams. Students who receive scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research alone will earn an AP Seminar and Research Certificate. 

The AP Capstone program is currently supported by dozens of colleges and universities in Canada and the United States. With AP Capstone, students can prepare for higher education in a rigorous and interdisciplinary environment. They can also enter college with increased knowledge and experience in teamwork, communication, writing, studying, and research. If you are interested in the AP Capstone program, speak to your guidance counselor about its availability at your school.