AP Capstone Seminar & Research


Throughout the program, students consider and evaluate multiple points of view to develop their own perspectives on complex issues and topics through inquiry and investigation. The AP Capstone program provides students with a framework that allows them to develop, practice, and hone their critical and creative thinking skills as they make connections between various issues and their own lives. Teachers should help students understand that this process is recursive, not linear. This recursive process allows students to go back and forth between the processes as they encounter new information.

How AP Capstone™ Works

Students typically take AP Seminar in the 10th or 11th grade, followed by AP Research. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP Exams of their choosing will receive the AP Capstone Diploma™. This signifies their outstanding academic achievement and attainment of college-level academic and research skills. Alternatively, students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research will receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate™ signifying their attainment of college-level academic and research skills.

AP Seminar

In this foundational course, typically taken in grade 10 or 11, students develop and strengthen analytic and inquiry skills, exploring two to four relevant issues chosen by the student and/or teacher. Students learn to consider an issue from multiple perspectives, evaluate the strength of an argument, and make logical, fact-based decisions. Students will question, research, explore, pose solutions, develop arguments, collaborate, and communicate using various media.

Themes and Topics

Themes that allow for deep exploration based on student interests, local and/or civic issues, global or international topics, and concepts from other AP courses are typically selected. For example, students might explore the question of whether national security is more important than a citizen’s right to privacy; or whether genetic engineering is a benefit to society.

Assessment – Seminar

During the course, students complete a team project, an individual paper and presentation, and take a written final exam. The AP Seminar Exam score is based on all three components and is reported on the standard 1–5 AP scoring scale.

AP Research

AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research.

The second course in the AP Capstone experience allows students to design, plan, and conduct a year-long research-based investigation on a topic of individual interest. Through this inquiry and investigation, students demonstrate the ability to apply scholarly understanding to real-world problems and issues.

Students further the skills developed in AP Seminar by understanding research methodology, employing ethical research practices, and accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information to build, present, and defend an argument. Students may choose to

Dig deeper into a topic studied in an AP course
Work across academic areas with an interdisciplinary topic
Study a new area of interest, perhaps one for further study at the college level

Assessment – Research

At the end of the research investigation, students submit an academic thesis paper of about 5,000, present their thesis, and orally defend their work. The AP Research Exam score is based on the paper, presentation, and defense, and is reported on the standard 1–5 AP scoring scale.