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Understanding Your AP Exam Scores

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At present there are 36 AP exams. While each test has its own distinct criteria, there are certain constants in the AP process.

For example, AP exams are administered in May and scored in June. Test results are released to students, schools and prospective colleges in July, and these results are reported using a 5-point scale. In the early years, the scores were equated with descriptors ranging from High Honors (5) to Fail (1). Today, the scores are described as follows:

5 = Extremely well qualified

4 = Well qualified

3 = Qualified

2 = Possibly qualified

1 = No recommendation

AP exam scores are reported as one combined, weighted score that reflects your overall performance on both the multiple choice and free response sections of the exam.

In each subject area, AP student results are compared to college student results in similar college-level courses. These comparisons help determine what constitutes college-level performance for each score, and as a result the scores are viewed as roughly equivalent to college course grades as follows:

5 = A+

4 = A-, B+, B

3 = B-, C+, C

2 = C-, D+, D, but this is not officially stated

1 = D-, F, but this is not officially stated

The AP testing and college admissions process can become competitive and stressful, so it’s important to keep things in perspective. To help you do that, keep these facts in mind.

Technically, colleges do not use AP scores to make admission decisions. In recent years, however, some colleges have indicated they “like to see” AP exam scores during the admission decision-making process because strong scores indicate you’re prepared for and are capable of handling college-level coursework.

Once you’ve been admitted to a college, your exam score simply determines whether or not you receive credit for that particular course. In most cases, colleges only award credit for scores of 3 or above.

Close to 90% of all colleges and universities have some form of AP program in place, but each one adopts its own unique approach. Some grant credit. Some grant advanced standing, which gives you the opportunity to enroll immediately in more advanced classes and skip introductory and survey courses. Some colleges grant both credit and advanced standing, which means you enter college with greater scheduling flexibility and the maximum payoff for your investment in the AP process.

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