Alabama continues to be the state with the fastest improvement on advanced placement exams, state officials and education advocates announced Wednesday.

In 2012, roughly 9,500 Alabama students qualified for college credit under the Advanced Placement program, which offers college-level courses in high school. That's a 136 percent increase over roughly 4,000 who qualified in 2008.

To get college credit through the program, students must not only complete the course but also score well on a test at the end of the course.

"It's not just an increase in kids who are exposed to the program, it's an increase in kids who are prepared for college," said Mary Boehm, president of the A-Plus College Ready Program, a division of the A-Plus Education Partnership, a Montgomery nonprofit group.

AP advocates say the growth is the result of a push by the state to expand the program, which is now available in about a third of all high schools statewide.

The state continues to lag behind the national average in qualifying scores on AP tests, but Alabama has improved its numbers faster than any other state.

"We've moved from 46th in the rankings to 34th," Boehm said.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.