What is an AP Capstone Diploma? AP FAQ

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Perhaps you want to apply for the AP Capstone Diploma but do not have enough information to make your decision, or you’ve just heard of the program, and you want to learn more about it. You are in the right place. This article covers everything you’ll probably need to know about the AP Capstone Diploma.

Although relatively new, the AP Capstone Diploma program is catching up with other advanced diploma programs in popularity and content. Its popularity is largely due to its ability to prepare high school students for college education. The activities of AP Capstone schools are typically centered around two courses (AP Seminar and AP Research). Throughout this article, we will be answering relevant questions about what an AP Capstone Diploma is and the AP diploma requirements. Read on to learn more.

What is an AP Capstone Diploma?

What is an AP Capstone Diploma?

Simply put, AP Capstone is a 2-year program consisting of two courses, including the AP Research and the AP Seminar. The program is developed by the College Board to award students that complete the program with an AP Capstone Diploma and a research certificate. Students must obtain a score of at least 3 in on four or more AP exams to complete the program.

AP Capstone can easily be classified as the new diploma arm of the AP program. Perhaps, you are aware that a diploma program typically refers to a program set up to signify completion of a set of high school requirements set to prove qualification for certain goals. This is awarded as an addition to the standard diploma earned in high school. The International Baccalaureate Program is perhaps the most popular advanced diploma program. But it is not the only advanced diploma program out there.

The AP Capstone launched by the AP in 2014 was probably started to rival the IB program. It’s important to note that the AP Capstone is different from the usual AP program in composition and expected results. For example, while the usual AP program would typically allow students to select the AP classes that they desire without giving room an overarching structure, the AP Capstone is structured to force students to take a predetermined amount of AP classes to qualify for its diploma. Students would also need to meet several set requirements to qualify for AP Capstone. Additionally, you’ll be required to take both subject-based and skill-based classes to complete this diploma.

According to the college board, the AP Capstone Diploma program is structured to cultivate independent, collaborative, and curious scholars. The program will also prepare scholars to do well in making logical decisions based on evidence. Alternatively, AP Capstone can be defined as a sub-program designed to bring thematic unity of some sort to the overall structure of the AP program.

As expected, most students typically go for AP courses that catch their interest. Because of the nature of these classes, students often treat them separately. Students are not obliged to make any connection between the AP classes they choose and the skills that they want. The Capstone program includes AP Research and AP Seminar with an aim to bring some level of cohesiveness to AP throughout high school.

How Does It Work?

How Does It Work?

Like most other advanced diploma programs, the AP Capstone diploma is pretty straightforward and obtainable. To get a diploma, a student would major in two unique AP courses. You would be required to take the first AP course (AP Seminar) during your 10th or 11th grade. The second AP course (AP Research) follows in your 11th or 12th grade. Please note that you are not allowed to take both courses at once. The AP Seminar comes first before the AP Research.

Apart from the two courses mentioned above, you’ll be required to take up to four other AP classes. There’s no fixed time for taking the other classes. You can take them at any time during high school. With this structure, you can spread the four AP courses across your four years in school or take them all in your last years.. A score of 3 or above on all the exams qualifies you for an AP Capstone award.

However, if you desire to go beyond the four required AP classes, then there’s nothing stopping you from going ahead with it. You only need to ensure that you take at least four AP courses to qualify you for the Diploma. This means that you’ll not get an AP Capstone if you get a score of at least 3 in AP Seminar and AP Research, but fail to take any or all of the other four AP courses required. Instead, you’ll just get other certificates like the AP Research and AP Seminar certificates signifying that you gained research and academic skills while in college.

What are the Benefits of AP Capstone Diploma?

What are the Benefits of AP Capstone Diploma?

Despite being new and relatively unpopular, the AP Capstone Diploma still has its numerous benefits. Only a few high schools across the country have been granted permission to offer the program. As a standardized course, the program requires that a facilitator undergoes different training to understand all the program’s principles. In addition to that, the school had to be able to support participating students while offering other AP classes.

One major reason why students often enroll for the AP Capstone Diploma program is to earn an additional diploma or certificate that will stand them out. It doesn’t just end there as there are several other benefits of enrolling in the AP Capstone Diploma program. Below, let’s review some of the popular benefits.

1. It Encourages Cross-Curricular Learning

The facilitators of this program understand the need to combine different knowledge. To this effect, they ensured that the program’s curricular is not as rigid as it ordinarily would have been. Instead of keeping the different course materials focused on the course they are meant for; the AP Capstone Diploma program goes the extra mile to emphasize importing lessons and concepts from other subjects. This strategy is considered important to improve the student’s depth of understanding of concepts and to help them learn to apply such concepts efficiently.

2. Improves Independent Research

This is one skill that would be useful to any student both in college and beyond. The AP Capstone Diploma program is structured to sharpen this skill in participants both on individual and group levels. Based on the participant’s personal interest, a guideline is drafted for them to craft their own research projects. This does not only encourage critical thinking in students, but it also helps them to develop solutions to issues that are present in their everyday life beyond the walls of their school.

3. Collaborative Thinking

Enrolling for this course puts you in the same sphere, with several other bright minds willing to change the world in their little ways. Therefore, you’ll always find yourself working with several other ambitious and independent students. By putting you in the same space with these people, the AP Capstone Diploma program provides a space where you solve problems individually and collaboratively. Throughout your participation in this program, you’ll face several group projects that would challenge you to contribute equally with other students to research questions. You will also be able to coordinate yourself with others while preparing for a joint presentation.

4. Improves Self-confidence

Nothing helps your confidence level as much as knowing that you can take on problems and solve them without help. That is exactly what this program is about – teaching students to take on problems and attempt solving them without waiting for help. Before rounding up the program,  students undertake several projects independently and collaboratively, building their confidence to take on tasks in the process.

5. Development of Key Academic Skills Needed in College

It’s a no-brainer that any advanced academic diploma program would help students learn new skills. The main reason for creating these programs is to teach students some of the key academic skills they’ll need throughout college.

Is the AP Capstone Diploma Worth It?

Is the AP Capstone Diploma Worth It?

Now that you know about AP Capstone, you are probably considering enrolling for it. Who wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to make their resumé better and prepare for college? But with the workload piling up, you are probably going to ask if taking the AP Capstone Diploma program is truly worth the stress. Let’s take a look.

The Bad

To start with, 6 AP classes is not a walkover for any high school student. In fact, it’s a significant workload that can break you down if you are not prepared for it. On average, high school students have to complete about 17.5 hours of homework each week. Adding another 3.5 hours of homework from AP classes might seem overwhelming for the average high school students. However, with proper planning and efficient execution, students can handle the workload without too many issues.

Another area that you might need to be concerned about is your AP exams. These exams are not only strictly timed; they often cost a lot too. With the exams typically costing $94, you can tell that a high school student might find registration quite difficult. However, apart from cost, the exams are pretty difficult, even for students who go the extra mile in preparations. Therefore, your chances of passing might depend on how much you are willing to prepare beforehand.

The Positive

Let’s dive straight to the question that’s probably lurking in your mind, why would you do this? You already know that the program’s main goal is to give you a competitive edge ahead of other high school graduates. In addition to this edge, the program typically requires you to take two classes. Each of the classes is designed to give you a skill that will be very vital during your time in college. Take a look at what each offers.

AP Seminar

This class teaches students how to search for information from different perspectives. You’ll learn how to investigate real-world topics from different perspectives. Throughout this class, you’ll learn skills that will be useful in and beyond your college career.

AP Research

The second AP Capstone class helps you develop research skills, which is an amazing skill for anybody going into college. This course will sharpen your research skills and teach you how to analyze information better. Throughout this class, you’ll be required to conduct a year-long research-based investigation that addresses a research question of your choosing.

Bottom Line

So, is the AP Capstone Diploma program worth it?

The answer to this question may not be as clear as you may ordinarily want it to be. It all boils down to your academic ability and how hard you are ready to work. If you think that you can handle the workload, then why not? You can enroll for the program since it prepares you for college and gives you a competitive edge during the admission process. However, be careful not to underestimate the workload, because it can get burdensome at some point trying to pass six AP classes.

How is Capstone Different from Other AP Programs?

How is Capstone Different from Other AP Programs?

Yes, the AP Capstone Diploma program is relatively new, but that doesn’t make it less useful. Perhaps, you are wondering the difference between AP Capstone and other regular AP Programs. Here’s a recap of the major differences between them.

The regular program passes as an “a la carte” program where you get to select your choice AP classes and the level of intensity that you would want for your schedule. Due to this liberty, some students fall back to taking very few AP classes during their high school days, while others take up to 10 or more. The number of classes you would take with regular AP courses depends on your availability and how much challenge you will take. It also depends on your area of interest.

In regular AP courses, a student’s success is determined by their performance in each exam. Over all, students are not forced into meeting some difficult criteria like average score and minimum subject requirements. The board made the regular AP program to be flexible enough for students to be comfortable taking it.

In direct contrast to the regular AP program, the AP Capstone features several stricter requirements. For example, taking the wrong AP classes or not getting to a particular score in your AP exam, would cost you an opportunity to earn your AP Capstone diploma award.

How Do You Get an AP Capstone Diploma?

How Do You Get an AP Capstone Diploma?

If your school offers the AP Capstone Diploma program, then you can possibly choose to enroll for the AP Capstone. You can also choose to only apply for that AP Research or the AP Seminar certificates.

All the AP Capstone Awards are listed on the AP score reports, and students can print it out from their online accounts when they earn the diploma or any of the certificates. Below is a detailed highlight of the requirements for earning an AP Capstone award.

Qualification Detail

There are two steps to determining who the winners of the award would be. The steps include:

  • A calculation of the student’s average score in the AP exams based on a cumulative score of all the exams taken in the present and former years.
  • The students’ AP exam scores are individually checked to see which ones count best for the various awards.

As a student, you’ll need to meet all criteria to be eligible for the award. For instance, if you have a 3.25 AP exam score on the average but only scored a minimum of 3 in just three exams, you will not be eligible to receive the AP Capstone award because the minimum requirements for eligibility is a score not less than 3 in four or more exams.

Please note that only the highest score is taken during the award calculation process for exams taken more than once.

Pros and Cons of AP Capstone

Pros and Cons of AP Capstone

Here, let’s look at some of the popular advantages and disadvantages of the AP Capstone Diploma program.


  • Offers high school graduates a competitive edge in their quest to make their favorite college
  • Helps students to develop key academic skills that will be useful in the long run
  • Improves self-confidence and critical thinking
  • Earn college credit


Wrapping Things Up: Key Takeaways on AP Capstone Diploma

Both students and parents are aware of the tightening competition as far as being admitted to a good college is concerned. Advanced classes and private tutors continue to promise an edge to ambitious students, but nothing stands a student out than having foreknowledge of what to expect in college. This is where advanced diploma programs like the AP Capstone stands out.

Throughout this article, we’ve provided detailed answers to the question, “what is an AP Capstone Diploma?” With the information in this article, you can make the right decision on whether you need this program or not. Remember that while it’s workload can sometimes be overwhelming, the AP Capstone Diploma program offers so much to students in terms of competitive edge. So, if you can push yourself, then this can be an excellent program for you.

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love the other high school study tips. Check them out below:

> AP vs. IB: Which is Better For You?

> What is a High School Equivalency Exam?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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