What is the AP Capstone project, AP Seminar with Hack your course in the USA and Canada


The AP Capstone is a two-year diploma program based on two year-long courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. Taking these two courses allows students to earn either the AP Capstone Diploma or the AP Seminar and Research Certificate. In order to earn the AP Capstone Diploma, students must achieve a score of 3 or higher on both the AP Seminar and AP Research courses, as well as a score of 3 or higher on four other AP exams.

AP Seminar and Research Certificate

In order to earn the AP Seminar and Research Certificate, students must achieve a score of 3 or higher on both the AP Seminar and AP Research courses, but do not need to score 3 or higher on any additional AP exams.

Why Should Students Take the AP Capstone?

There are a number of reasons why students should consider taking the AP Capstone. First, it will benefit students’ post-secondary careers. Not only does it look great on college applications, but it will also prepare them for the advanced academic rigor of college classes. Second, the curricula of the AP Capstone will help develop the way students think. They will engage in creative problem-solving and gain confidence in their own thoughts and opinions.

How Does it Work?

In either grade ten or grade eleven, students take AP Seminar, followed by AP Research in grade eleven or grade twelve. These two courses cannot be taken simultaneously, and AP Seminar must be taken before AP Research.

What is AP Seminar?

AP Seminar is the first-class students aiming to complete the AP Capstone are required to take. It is designed to broaden students’ critical thinking and analysis skills but focus on a handful of real-world, multidisciplinary topics. For example, one topic may ask whether scientists should be trying to create true artificial intelligence. This topic requires discussion of several subjects, such as technology, ethics, social sciences, and more.

There are two primary tasks and a final exam that make up the students’ grade.

Task 1: Individual Research and Team Presentation

In this task, students are put into teams of two to four members and asked to give a presentation on the topic of their choosing. Each team member researches a specific aspect of the topic and then the research is combined into a single group presentation of roughly eight to ten minutes.

For example, if the team chooses the topic of voter reform, one member may research the economic impact of revamping the voting system, while another might research the social impact.

Task 2: Argumentative Essay/Individual Presentation/Oral Defense

The second tasks centers around a package of stimulus material given to every student taking the AP Seminar course by the Collegeboard. All packages are identical and contain several texts of varying natures, designed to inspire students.

The argumentative essay must be 1800-2200 words long and use at least one of the texts from the stimulus material as a source. However, other research and sources must be used as well.

The individual presentation is roughly six to eight minutes long and is based on the argumentative essay. Following the presentation, students will face questions from their teacher and be required to respond to them.

Final Exam

The final exam of the AP Seminar is comprised of two parts. In the first part, students are given an argumentative text to read and must determine the author’s central claim, the argument’s line of reasoning, and the evidence used to support the argument. In the second part, students are given four different argumentative texts and must create their own argumentative essay, synthesizing the four texts to do so. A score of 3/5 on the final exam is required in order to move onto the AP Research course.

What is AP Research?

AP Research, completed in either grade eleven or grade twelve, is an individual project on a topic chosen by the student. They will take the full school year to research the topic and write a 4000 to 5000-word essay on it, as well giving a public presentation.


The public presentation is worth 25% of the students’ final score and is graded by their teacher. The presentation itself is 15-20 minutes long, followed by 3-4 minutes of responding to questions by a three-person panel.

The scoring rubric for the presentation proper has four elements: Research Design, Establish Argument, Reflect, and Engage Audience.

Research Design: it must be clearly shown that the research question, method, argument, and conclusion are present and logically fit together.
Establish Argument: the conclusion must logically and clearly be a result of a well-identified and well-supported argument.
Reflect: it is important to show how the research and the process of writing personally affected the student’s conclusions.
Engage Audience: the student should be well-spoken and use a variety of communication techniques, such as eye contact and thoughtful gestures, during their presentation.

The oral defense portion of the presentation has three rubric elements based on the questions that the panel-members will ask: Research/Inquiry Process, Depth of Understanding, and Reflection Throughout the Inquiry Process.

Research/Inquiry Process: the student must explain why they chose the particular methodology that they did and defend why it was appropriate.
Depth of Understanding: the student must show comprehension of specific details related to their work and connect them to their conclusions.
Reflection Throughout the Inquiry Process: the student must demonstrate how the process of the year-long research project has personally affected their own understanding or development.

Research Essay

The research essay is worth 75% of the students’ final score and is graded out of 5 by external markers at the Collegeboard. Rather than individual rubric elements, like those in presentation, the essay is scored as a whole. However, there are some specifics that the student must demonstrate in order to get full marks:

• An appropriate, specific topic of inquiry.
• Support and evidence from scholarly works which show a variety of perspectives.
• That the topic of inquiry is unique and has not already been addressed.
• That the research is replicable.
• That the research method logically follows the topic of inquiry.
• That the student has reached a new understanding based on the research.
• The limitations of the conclusion and its implications in the real world.
• Clear communication and organizational style, including proper grammar, language mechanics, and design.
• Proper citations and attributions to all sources, including in-text citations and a works cited page or bibliography.

Together, the presentation and the research essay make up the final grade. A score of 3/5 is required in order to achieve either the AP Capstone Diploma or the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

What Else Do I Need?

If you’re only aiming for the AP Seminar and Research Certificate? Nothing.
If you’re aiming for the AP Capstone Diploma? Four AP classes with a grade of at least 3/5. Fortunately, there are no requirements beyond that. These can be any of the AP classes you wish to take.


When it comes to the AP Capstone, try to focus as much as you can on subjects that interest you and that you are passionate about. You may not be able to do this all of the time, but when you can, such as during your AP Research course, it will greatly improve your performance. Similarly, when you are choosing your four AP classes—assuming that you are aiming for the AP Capstone Diploma—consider taking classes that you care about and are the most important for the college admissions, rather the easiest or most popular classes.

Not only will being passionate about your courses make the work easier and more enjoyable for you, but chances are that the topics will be more related to your chosen post-secondary field. Having AP courses that relate to the subject area you are applying to colleges for is highly beneficial.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of resources online to guide you through the AP Capstone, but nothing beats a teacher or tutor to help with these difficult and advanced courses!


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