All About AP Tests

Catherine 3.0  by Catherine Tierney

This week marks the start of AP tests. From Music Theory to Economics, there are 36 tests to choose from. This year, over 2.5 million students will take at least one exam. Every high school has different policies around who can take AP classes and when. The AP exams, however, are standardized tests offered by the College Board (the same company that offers the SAT). Many students are unsure of whether to take the tests and their role in college admissions. Here are some common questions students have.

How are AP tests scored?

All AP tests are scored from 1-5 with 5 being the highest score a student can achieve. Students often ask what percentage of questions they need to answer correctly to achieve a certain score. Like the ACT and SAT, this changes slightly with every test. Many students are surprised by the scaling of the test. For example, a couple years ago, a score of 75% on the AP English Language and Composition test would earn a student a “5”.

When are scores available?

AP scores are available in early July on the Collegeboard website. The precise release date depends on your state. Check out this website to find out exactly when scores will be available:

Will I get college credit?

Colleges have different policies about awarding credit for AP tests. For the vast majority of schools, a score of “3” is adequate to receive credit. The top echelon of schools usually require a “4” or “5”. Some schools allow students to use AP classes in place of an introductory class but do not let students receive credits to put towards graduation (so they cannot graduate early). Every school is a little bit different. But it is safe to say that there is no instance where scoring well on an AP test won’t help you in some way.

Do I have to send every score?

Yes and no. For admissions, AP scores are self-reported. Colleges do not require an official score report until a student has matriculated and is seeking course credit. So eventually your college of choice will see all of your scores. Your admissions offer will not be revoked for a poor AP score!

Can you take the AP exam without taking the associated class?

The short answer is yes. There are certainly enough review materials to prepare for the AP exams without taking the class. Think hard before you make this decision. If your goal is to improve your application and impress admissions officers, skipping out on the AP course is not a good idea. Most admissions officers agree that the rigor of high school courses is one of the most important factors in admissions—perhaps even more important than test scores! Scoring well on the AP exam without taking the course will prove to admissions committees that you’re a good test taker; the only way to really prove that you are capable of excelling in college level classes is to take the AP course (and do well in it!).