What it Takes to Take AP

    You’re already using the skills it takes to succeed; AP challenges you to take them to entirely new levels.

    You might think that AP classes are tough, and you might be right. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t up to the task. If you are willing to work hard, you'll find that the qualities you use in other parts of your life can help achieve your goals. AP brings the college experience to your high school with the opportunity to earn college credits at thousands of universities. More students are ready for AP than you’d think. Roll up your sleeves and find out what AP can do for you.

    What's an AP Class Like?

    There's more to AP than you ever imagined. Drive the discussion, discover for yourself how things work and get ready for college.

    Stand Out in College Admissions

    College application season can be an anxious time for you, your family and just about everyone who cares about you. You've worked hard and done your best, but how do you know you've got the academic experience that colleges are looking for?

    By making the decision to take an AP course, you're letting colleges and universities know that you have what it takes to succeed in an undergraduate environment. AP courses signal to admissions officers that you've undertaken the most rigorous classes your high school has to offer. They see that you've challenged yourself with college-level course work and expectations, and have refined your skills to meet these expectations. In the increasingly competitive admissions process, this knowledge can be very valuable.

    Importantly, AP courses offer admissions officers a consistent measure of course rigor across high schools, districts, states and countries—because all AP teachers, no matter where they're teaching, have to provide a curriculum that meets college standards. So when admissions officers see "AP" on your transcript, they have a good understanding of what you experienced in a particular class and how well it prepared you for the increased challenges of college.

    Skip Introductory Classes

    If you know what you want to major in at college, taking an AP course related to that major and earning a qualifying score on the AP exam can help you gain advanced placement out of introductory courses. This means that you can possibly place out of crowded required courses, and move directly into upper-level classes where you can focus on work that interests you most.

    Even if you take an AP exam unrelated to your major — or if you're not sure what you want to major in —AP courses can often help you place out of your colleges' general education requirements. With this additional time on your class schedule, you can pursue a second major or minor, take exciting electives or follow additional interests in new ways.

    Earn College Credits

    As college costs grow each year, the prospect of continuing education becomes less and less of a reality for many high school students. By making it through an AP course and scoring successfully on the related AP Exam, you can save on college expenses. Currently more than 90 percent of colleges and universities across the country offer college credit, advanced placement, or both, for qualifying AP Exam scores. These credits can potentially save students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition, fees and textbook costs, which can transform what once seemed unaffordable into something within reach.

    You can see specific colleges' guidelines on accepting AP scores for credit and placement by searching our AP Credit Policy database. Here you can see how many credits your AP scores will earn you and which courses you may be able to place out of at your future college.

    Advanced Placement Program (AP) represents a significant collaboration between colleges and universities and secondary schools.

    The AP course and exam experiences take place in secondary school classrooms; however, college faculty members work alongside AP teachers to help shape the course and exam content and to score exams. Admission and enrollment officials recognize the achievement of AP students, who demonstrate through successful exam scores that they are ready for the challenge of higher education and can, in turn, contribute new thoughts and ideas to the communities at their colleges and universities.

    Exam Scores

    It shouldn’t take an AP class to figure out how AP Exams are scored, and it doesn’t.

    When it comes to AP Exams, we know you've got lots of questions. "Why did I receive a 4 on the exam instead of a 5? Or a 3 instead of a 4?" "How can I compare the scores on this year's exams to last year's, or next year's?" "What happens between the time I take the exam in May and receive my score in July?" "How do you score the exam?" Here's where you can get all the answers.

    Scoring the AP Exams

    After students are finished with the AP Exams in May, schools return all AP Exam materials to the AP Program.

    • The multiple-choice section is scored by computer. Each answer sheet is scanned and the total number of correct responses equals the multiple-choice score.
    • The free-response section is scored at the annual AP Reading held during the first two weeks in June. College professors and experienced AP teachers from across the country come together to read and score your free-response answers.
    • The total scores from the free-response section and the multiple-choice section are combined to form a composite score.

    From Composite Score to AP Score

    AP scores are determined after we establish score boundaries—the difference between a 2 on the exam and a 3, for example. We do this by defining how many composite score points equal each different AP score. This process is known as score setting and it takes place immediately after the reading.

    AP Exam scores are reported on a 5-point scale as follows:
    5 Extremely well qualified*
    4 Well qualified*
    3 Qualified*
    2 Possibly qualified**
    1 No recommendation**
    * Qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement
    ** No recommendation to receive college credit or advanced placement

    These definitions are recommendations that the College Board provides to colleges and universities. However, each college decides for which scores it will accept for credit or placement. To see colleges' score guidelines, visit our AP Credit Policy lookup.

    During score-setting sessions (there is one for each AP Exam) composite scores are translated into AP scores by setting boundaries for each score based on a statistical technique called equating.

    Equating relates an AP Exam from one year to an AP Exam from another year so that performance on the two exams can be compared. This is accomplished by looking at how well AP students performed on a set of multiple-choice questions that is common to both exams. These particular multiple-choice questions cover the curriculum content and represent a broad range of difficulty; they can therefore provide key information about the ability level of the current group of students and indicate the current exam's level of difficulty. This same set of questions may show up on next year's AP Exam, and the one after that, too. That's why you aren't allowed to talk about or share the multiple-choice questions from the AP Exam with anyone—it's all because of equating!

    Online Scores for Students

    In 2013, AP will provide a new online score reporting system where you'll be able to view, download and print your AP score reports and order and pay for score sends.   

    When scores are available in July, you will need a College Board account to access them.   You may already have one if you have taken the SAT, or participated in another College Board program.  

    Check back on this website in April for more information about the online score reporting system.

    In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get your free College Board account now- it’ll be one less thing to do this spring when you are preparing for AP Exams.   Get Your Free College Board Account Now!

    Why Do Colleges Recognize AP?

    AP Students Succeed in College

    Multiple research studies have shown that AP students who earn credit and advanced placement for the corresponding introductory college course:

    • Perform well in subsequent courses within the same discipline
    • Take more, not fewer, courses in the discipline for which they’ve received AP credit
    • Tend to earn higher GPAs than non-AP students.
    • Are more likely to graduate from college in four or five years

    AP Provides Opportunities for Underserved Students to Succeed

    AP provides prepared and motivated underserved students with the opportunity to succeed in rigorous curricula and in college. A recent study showed that students who completed an AP Exam using a College Board–issued fee waiver had higher four-year college-going rates, retention rates and first-year grade point averages than non-AP students. We are committed to increasing the number of underserved students who participate and succeed in AP by offering:

    Over the past 10 years, the number of traditionally underserved students participating in AP has increased, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of all AP students.

Last Modified on March 7, 2013