About 30 percent of California high school graduates from the class of 2015 who took Advanced Placement tests earned a score of 3 or higher, allowing them to earn college credit, according to figures released Wednesday.

California now ranks fifth nationally for the percentage of test-takers earning at least a score of 3, according to the test’s publisher, the College Board.

AP scores for California’s college-bound students have been steadily increasing for years as the state continues to focus efforts to ensure that more students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

Ten years ago, just 18 percent of test-takers in the state earned a score of 3 or higher. The state then ranked in the middle nationally.

“It shows we are making great progress in our efforts to encourage students to take courses that will challenge them, give them a greater understanding of a wide variety of subject matters, and help prepare them for college and 21st century careers,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release.

California currently offers AP courses in 30 subjects.

Nationally, 1.1 million students who graduated in 2015 took at least one AP exam, while 168,873 graduates in California took at least one exam.

Maryland ranked first with 32 percent of graduates earning at least a score of 3. Massachusetts, Florida and Connecticut students also ranked ahead of California.

Earning a score of 3 or higher on AP tests means students receive credit toward their general education requirements when they begin college, allowing them to take fewer courses, save money and more quickly enroll in upper-level courses.

State officials credit California’s improved AP test scores to the growing availability of AP courses across the state, especially at schools in low-income communities.

Statewide, a record 44 percent of graduates from the class of 2015 eligible for free or reduced-price meals took at least one AP exam. That’s nearly double the rate from 10 years ago, an increase in part attributed to $10 million in federal funds provided to California last year to help cover testing fees for students in high-needs communities.

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