Avery, Christopher, Oded Gurantz, Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith. "Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP16-058, October 2016.


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 received 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.