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Should You Take AP Tests?

During early May, high school students around the world sit for Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The College Board runs the AP program, and provides teachers with curriculum guides so that they can cover the material students will be required to know for the exams. At some schools, students enrolled in AP classes are required to take the AP exams, but it makes sense to take them, even if not required. You may do better than you think, and after working hard in an AP class all year, why miss out on the opportunity to receive college credit?

AP exams include a free response section, which will be either problem-solving or essay writing, as well as a multiple choice section. The only exception is the Studio Art exam, which consists of a portfolio review.

Raw scores on the exams are converted to a scaled score of one to five. Each college sets its own policy for granting credit, but most will award credit for scores of four or five. Some schools grant credit for a score of three. The score required for credit can vary by subject as well as by college. Some of the most selective schools have more restrictive policies for awarding AP credit.

Some college applications, including the Common Application, ask you to self-report scores, though they are not officially part of the admission process and may be used only for placement. You need to send official scores only the summer before you will be enrolling, so that the registrar can evaluate the scores for credit at that school. AP scores may be considered in the admission process at some test-optional colleges. Students applying to the UK may be required to submit AP scores for direct entry.

If you have earned an AP Scholar award, it is certainly worth noting in your application. Being designated a National AP Scholar is most impressive, as it requires an average score of at least four on all AP exams taken, and scores of four or higher on eight or more exams.

Students who have taken a full load of AP courses in high school often start college with at least a semester’s worth of credits. Some students even enter college with sophomore standing. They may decide to graduate early, saving tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. Even if they plan to spend four years in college, by placing out of introductory courses they have the flexibility to double-major or take a lighter class schedule while doing an internship.

Students who have not taken an AP course can still take an AP exam, so if you are homeschooled or attend a high school that does not offer AP courses, or if you have studied a subject in depth on your own, it is still possible to earn AP credit. If you are thinking about taking an AP exam and have not taken the course, it would be helpful to read a description of the exam, including questions and sample answers from previous years, available on the College Board website: Tutoring for the AP tests can be found on Youtube.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by The College Advisor, prepared for our clients and their families.


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