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KB101: A Comprehensive Guide to the Advanced Placement Program

The Advanced Placement Program is administered by the College Board, the same institution which oversees the SATs and PSATs. It enables students to earn college credit, potentially helping them to stand out in their application. It is currently offered by four high schools in Singapore, namely International Community School, Singapore American School, Singapore Korean International School, and Stamford American International School. The AP is recognised worldwide, in particular by colleges in the US.

The AP | Overall

On a standalone basis, the AP is an "a la carte" program—candidates may choose which AP classes to take and how intense they want their schedule to be. Some may view the AP as an extra layer of “outstanding factor” in their application and take 1 or 2 AP classes in high school. Others could take over 10 classes. The number of AP classes taken is dependent on several factors such as how much the candidate wants to challenge themselves, as well as how many AP courses their school offers, and which subjects they are interested in.

There are 7 groups of subjects:

  • AP Capstone

  • Arts

  • English

  • History and Social Sciences

  • Math and Computer Science

  • Sciences

  • AP World Languages and Cultures

The AP Grading System

Across the aforementioned 7 groups, there are 38 available subjects in total. Each AP class is typically one year long, in which candidates sit for the examination at the end of the course. Students may self-study for any course not offered at their schools. Similar to the IB grading system, each AP course is graded on a numerical scale, from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest attainable grade. A minimum grade of 3 is required for the candidate to pass any AP course.

The AP International Diploma (APID)

The APID is available to international students attending high schools outside the US or US territories. The diploma is offered in Singapore by Stamford American International School.

Students must score a 3 or higher on at least 5 AP Exams in order to receive the diploma. The APID is offered by Stamford American International School in Singapore

There are 4 content areas in which candidates need to satisfy:

  1. World Languages & Culture and/ or English

  2. Global Perspectives

  3. Science or Math and Computer Science

  4. Additional AP courses

1. World Languages & Culture and/ or English

Candidates need to choose two subjects that are of different languages out of the following:

World Languages and Culture

  • Chinese Language and Culture

  • French Language and Culture

  • German Language and Culture

  • Italian Language and Culture

  • Japanese Language and Culture

  • Spanish Language and Culture

  • Spanish Literature and Culture


  • English Language and Composition

  • English Literature and Composition

Candidates can differentiate the two English courses as AP English Language covers non-fiction works while AP English Literature focuses on full-length novels and plays.

2. Global Perspectives

  • Art History

  • Comparative Government and Politics

  • Environmental Science

  • Human Geography

  • Macroeconomics

  • World History

3. Science or Math and Computer Science

Math & Computer Science

  • Calculus AB

  • Calculus BC

  • Computer Science A

  • Computer Science Principles

  • Statistics


  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Environmental Science

  • Physics 1: Algebra-Based

  • Physics 2: Algebra-Based

  • Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

  • Physics C: Mechanics

4. Additional AP Classes

This additional class is such that candidates are to pick any APs that are not English nor a world language.

The AP Capstone Diploma

The AP Capstone Diploma is a new diploma designed by the College Board to compete with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Similarly, there are also two compulsory subjects candidates are required to complete in order to be awarded the diploma. Alongside these two compulsory courses, candidates are free to select any other 4 subjects to complete their diploma. These are the AP Seminar and AP Research respectively.

AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research. Students will complete both internal and external assessments (written and oral) as a part of the AP Capstone Seminar exam. The themes are based on candidate interests, local/ global issues, as well as concepts from other AP courses. The examinable components include a team project, an individual paper and presentation, and an examination.

AP Research aims to further students’ skills acquired through the AP Seminar. Various skills such as understanding research methods, assessing and analysing information are needed when students address their research questions. Somewhat similar to the Extended Essay, candidates complete the course with an academic paper of approximately 5000 words and a presentation, with no formal examinations.


The advanced placement program is especially appropriate for candidates who wish to have a standout factor on their application to US colleges. Candidates may be restricted given that Singapore has relatively few high schools offering the AP program. For any candidates wishing to learn more about other high school programs, check out this link for the IB diploma and the A’Level.

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