DARIEN — Darien High School students are looking for more college credits and challenging classes.

The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams at Darien High School has increased by over 20 percent in the past two years, from 338 students taking 703 exams to 409 students taking 818 exams, said Marc Marin, the director of instructional technology and the district test coordinator, at the Oct. 4 Board of Education meeting. Approximately 60 percent of students in the senior class take at least one AP exam during high school, with students taking two to three AP exams, on average.

According to Paul Ribeiro, the high school’s director of guidance, there are a couple of factors that contributed to the increase. “We definitely have seen an increase in students interested in taking AP courses,” Ribeiro said. “We always encourage students to challenge themselves.”

Ribeiro said an interest in AP courses from colleges also drove the increase.

“We see some students visiting with college representatives or visiting colleges that encourage them to take a more-challenging, rigorous course load,” Ribeiro said, adding that while students are motivated to take AP courses on their own, hearing encouragement from colleges holds weight.

More Information

By the numbers

2014

Number of students taking AP exams: 338

Number of AP exams taken: 703

Percentage of students earning a 3 or higher: 96%

2015

Number of students taking AP exam: 362

Number of AP exams taken: 743

Percentage of students earning a 3 or higher: 94%

2016

Number of students taking AP exam: 409

Number of AP exams taken: 818

Percentage of students earning a 3 or higher: 92%

The high school offers 20 AP courses, most of them geared toward juniors and seniors. The majority of courses require specific grades and prerequisites, but students can test into some of the classes, opening up some AP classes to freshmen and sophomores.

Students can sign up to take other AP exams in an area of particular interest to them, even if the corresponding AP course is not offered at the high school.

“At the very least, the AP moniker looks great on an application for college, and it certainly permits a bit more access,” Marin said.

Independently, students have taken exams in AP Chinese, AP German, AP Japanese and AP macroeconomics, among other subjects. Usually students have some background in the subject, whether they are a native speaker of a language or have already taken a course in a similar area (for example, some students take the AP physics exam after taking the physics course offered by the high school).

While the school is not required to offer guidance to students in these cases, Ribeiro said they will accommodate students taking an independent test. Teachers are often willing to help students study for their exams, if the students seek them out. The school registers students for the exam and facilitates the testing for them.

The school doesn’t register students for exams until February or March, so Ribeiro does not know the exact number of students taking independent tests this year. Last year, 38 students out of 409 took AP exams without taking a class.

AP exams are scored from 1 to 5, with 3 and up classified as passing. Over the past two years, Marin’s data shows a slight dip — 4 percent — in the number of students getting a 3 or higher. But, as the number of students taking exams and courses increase, Darien officials feel their students are still on track with where they should be with their AP success.