Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores

Christopher Avery, Oded Gurantz, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith

NBER Working Paper No. 22841
Issued in November 2016
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education

Mapping continuous raw scores from millions of Advanced Placement examinations onto the 1 to 5 integer scoring scale, we apply a regression discontinuity design to understand how students’ choice of college major is impacted by receiving a higher integer score despite similar exam performance to students who earned a lower integer score. Attaining higher scores increases the probability that a student will major in that exam subject by approximately 5 percent (0.64 percentage points), with some individual exams demonstrating increases in major choice by as much as 30 percent. These direct impacts of a higher score explain approximately 11 percent of the unconditional 64 percent (5.7 percentage points) gap in the probability of majoring in the same subject as the AP exam when attaining a 5 versus a 4. We estimate that a substantial portion of the overall effect is driven by behavioral responses to the positive signal of receiving a higher score.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22841

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