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    Do You Have to Take the AP Exam if You Take an AP Course?

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    and Varonika Ware

    Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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    Reviewed by Cari Shultz

    Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: June 20th, 2024
    Do You Have to Take the AP Exam if You Take an AP Course?

    If you struggled in an AP class, you may be wondering if you have to take the AP exam afterwards. Well, the short answer is, no. But before you make your decision, you should know that you don’t have much to lose in taking an AP exam. It may be worth taking the exam just to see how you do. To help you make your decision, we’ll go into the pros and cons of each choice in this article.

    Also read: What happens if I fail an AP exam?

    What happens if you don’t take the AP exam?

    If you don’t take an exam, you usually won’t face any consequences. Some AP teachers offer extra credit to incentivize students to take the exam, so you may miss out on that. Make sure to check with your AP teacher as some schools might have a rule about taking the exam if you took the class. 

    Many students take AP courses without taking the exam for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the test was too expensive, or they couldn’t make the exam date. It could also be because none of their potential colleges accept AP credits. 

    Either way, colleges will not look down on you for abstaining from taking the exam. Since you won’t have any exam scores, nothing will be sent to your prospective colleges.

    Possible advantages of taking the exam

    Although there are no consequences from skipping the exam, you might be missing out on some opportunities. The first and most obvious advantage is the college credit. 

    Although many colleges are highly selective about AP results, or don’t accept them at all, some still will give you credit. This means that you could set yourself on a course to graduate early or make it easier for yourself down the line to double major or switch majors altogether.

    Additionally, a strong AP score can make your college application more attractive. AP scores are far from the most important factor that colleges look at, but they can still speak to your ability to balance responsibilities and perform in class. You shouldn’t weigh this opportunity too heavily, but it is one to consider.

    Also see: Why should I earn college credit in high school?

    Good reasons not to take an AP exam

    Now that you know the possible advantages of taking the exam, let’s go over reasons not to take it. As with most things, it comes down to a question of setting your priorities. In general, your grades are more important than your AP scores. 

    AP tests come around the beginning of May, which could be crunch time for some students. If your AP test falls on the weekend before a huge final or due date, and you don’t think you’ll pass the exam, it may be a better idea to spend your time studying for your final.

    Additionally, the cost of AP exams may deter you from taking them. Especially if it seems unlikely that you’ll pass the test, it could make sense to skip out on it. If this is an issue, we recommend looking into reduced cost test vouchers. While these might not make them affordable for everyone, they might convince you to try the test out.

    But remember, being scared of hurting your college chances should not be a reason to abstain from the exam! You don’t have to send your AP results to colleges if you choose not to. 

    Read more: How many AP classes should I take in high school?

    Reminder about some changes to AP tests

    Learn more about the 2024 AP Test changes, including the move to digital formatting!

    Final thoughts

    As you begin to apply to colleges, make sure to check out our other resources! We can help you decide when to start applying to schools and how to choose a major. If you need help finding a financial safety school or figuring out when to take the SAT, we’ve got you. Good luck!

    Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • There are no consequences for deciding not to take an AP exam
    • However, getting a good score can result in colleges offering college credit for some of your courses
    • You can use the credit you receive to possibly graduate early or fulfill course requirements for multiple majors at once 
    • Many factors might contribute to deciding not to take an AP exam, such as lack of study time or the cost of the test
    • Fortunately, there are test vouchers available and one free score send for each year you take AP exams

    Frequently asked questions about AP exams

    Can I take an AP exam if I haven’t taken the class?

    Yes! If you feel like you can pass an AP exam and your college accepts them for credit, this might be a good idea. It will be difficult to pass without having taken the course, but some may be easier than others. If you’re interested, try starting with our guide to how to self study for AP exams.

    What happens if I fail an AP exam?

    If you fail an AP exam, you won’t face any serious consequences. You can choose whether you’d like to send it to colleges, and even if you do send failing scores, they do not weigh these results heavily. For more information on the results of failing an AP exam, check out our article.

    What’s a passing score on an AP exam?

    Since AP exams are graded on a 5-point scale, you’ll need to get a 3 or better in order to pass the exam. Fortunately, if you get anything below that you can request your scores be withheld from colleges.

    Does your AP exam score affect your overall GPA?

    No, AP exam scores are separate from your GPA and final grades. Teachers might offer incentives to get students to take the exam but deciding not to take it won’t affect your final grades.

    Is the AP exam harder than the SAT/ACT?

      Not necessarily. The AP exam is a specialized test about one specific subject while the SAT focuses on two and the ACT focuses on four. They are also scored differently, so it may take additional study time to get the result you want on each exam.

    Can I retake an AP exam?

    Unfortunately, AP exams are only given one time a year, so you would have to wait a year to retake a specific subject. Also, retaking an AP exam can be expensive, so be sure to try your best the first time!

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