Students in Bismarck Rewarded With $100 For Passing AP Exams


In Bismarck, North Dakota, the National Math and Science Initiative gives students who earn a four or five on any science, math, or English AP Exam $100. The program waives the fee for the first AP Exam students take, and all the following are $40. The Bismarck Public Schools are not the only schools that have taken up this program, but Mandan High School and St. Mary’s have also been awarded money.

Hearing From Students and Teachers

Students and teachers alike have reported this $100 incentive as having a positive impact at their high school. 

Maggie Sorensen, a junior at Legacy High School, says, “It’s great that it covers the application fee of the test, and actually getting the money at the end is a great reward. So it really encourages you to study and pass all your exams, and its a great start to your college fund as well.” Similarly, Nick Mathern, another junior at Legacy High School, reports, “AP tests cost money, so if you’re taking five like me, it gets pretty expensive. But then having that check gives you incentive to study more and do better on the test because if you pass you get $100 per test.” Both these students have mentioned the $100 check, helping them gain motivation to take the class and pass the test. Last year alone, 148 students passed their exams, and almost $15,000 was given out. If this money is encouraging students to take more challenging classes and passing a test, what’s the harm?

Some AP teachers, including Brett Michel, have reported that not only have more students enrolled in AP courses after the incentive was announced, but others also have self-studied to pass AP Exams on their own. In their opinions, the check is beneficial, because it motivates students to challenge themselves in a way that they usually would not be. Mitchell has also given some insight into how this incentive has affected students on a deeper level. According to Mitchell, “Throughout the year, you know how high school students are, they want to say they’re not important, but when they get that qualifying score, and they get that $100 check, you see a sense of pride because they know they’ve worked so hard to achieve that.” Receiving a reward for accomplishing a task is often helpful because not only does it encourage students to complete the task, it also helps them gain confidence and feel proud of themselves, which above all, is the most important thing.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I think this idea is one of the best I’ve heard regarding the College Board’s AP Exams. At my school, students who take AP classes are required to take the corresponding AP exams. Each of these exams costs $94. For some students, this fee may not be much of a deal, but for others, the cost is a financial challenge. Even though students with significant financial need can qualify to get $32 on each exam waived, the cost adds up quickly. And for students who are taking multiple courses, the cumulative costs can be very high. In the grand scheme of things, paying a couple of hundred dollars for a few exams could save thousands for students in college. But this scenario relies on various factors, which can’t always be counted on. These fees, which are required by my town’s public school, deter many from taking the courses and put out many students’ families who do. Asking for financial aid is not an easy task for all, and the aid offered to those of “significant need,” which is a subjective term, is measly at best. Therefore, I’m all for Bismarck schools offering students a reward, which can pay for their fee-reduced exam and/or offer them an incentive for studying hard and furthering their academics.


This post was written by one of U4SC’s Educators 4SC Research Assistants, Samantha.

[Image Attribute: Eric E Castro]