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    What Happens if You Fail an AP Exam?

    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 Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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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: January 30th, 2024
    What Happens if You Fail an AP Exam?

    As you begin studying for your AP exam, you probably have a lot of questions on your mind. If you’ve had trouble in your AP class, one of those questions may be, “What happens if you fail an AP exam?” Well, we are here to ease your worries. If you fail an AP exam, you won’t be at any disadvantage. Colleges do not require that you submit AP exam scores, so they won’t see them, if you don’t report them! Here’s a breakdown of what will happen if you fail an AP Exam:

    Colleges will not look at your score

    You will not be required to send your AP score to your colleges unless you want to earn college credit. In that case, you can wait to pay for an official score report to be sent after you’ve decided where you are enrolling and after you have completed any senior year AP courses. 

    Instead of sending an official score report during the application process, you have the option to self-report your scores. If you opt to self-report your scores in your application or to send an official report before taking the test, the college will receive it and it can be used in their application review process. While AP scores are not weighed heavily by the vast majority of colleges, some highly selective institutions may look at them more carefully.  

    If you are worried that your college may be off put by a low score, you can opt not to self-report or send your AP score. You can also wait until you get your score back to make any decisions.

    You will not receive college credit

    The most substantial consequence to failing an AP exam is that you will not receive college credit for the course. However, many colleges do not even offer credit for AP courses. So, you may not be missing out on an opportunity at all. 

    Either way, you shouldn’t look at this as a scary consequence. The worst that can happen is that it is as if you never took the exam, if you don’t self-report or send in the official score. It won’t actually impact you negatively, it will just fail to provide a possible benefit.

    Related: How does AP credit work?

    Your class grade will not be affected

    A poor AP exam score will not affect your class grade. Typically, you receive your AP score far after your semester grades have already been submitted. So, you don’t have to worry about failing the course as a result of failing the AP exam.

    It’s worth noting, however, that some AP teachers use practice AP tests as their course final. If this is the case, you’ll definitely want to do well on that practice test. Most teachers will tell their class of this rule long beforehand. If you know that your final will be an AP practice test, you should start studying for the test early and be especially focused on it.

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

    Some students get a GPA boost

    Even if a student fails the AP exam, a GPA boost might occur if the student’s school weighs GPAs. However, the vast majority of colleges recalculate GPAs by stripping the weight in their application review process. The most important thing to remember is that colleges see the course on the transcript and then consider the rigor of curriculum in their review.

    Also see: Honors vs AP Courses: What are the differences?

    How to avoid failing your AP exam

    So, we’ve established that it’s not the worst thing in the world to fail an AP exam. But still, if you are able to, you should try your best to pass. You should make sure to get help from your teacher throughout the semester to address weak points you have in the class. Take practice tests throughout the semester to help prepare you for what might be on the test. It could also be a good idea to get a test prep tutor. But don’t let your AP exam take up too much of your life! Remember that extracurriculars and having an enjoyable high school experience are also important.

    Related: Do I have to take the AP Exam if I take an AP class?

    Final thoughts

    To sum everything up, don’t worry too much! Getting a good score on an AP exam can be a nice boost to your college application, and it may place you out of courses in college. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass. Your class grade won’t be affected, and colleges will still be impressed that you took an AP course. Colleges won’t see your scores, if you don’t report them. So, even if you are unsure if you’ll pass, it’s a good idea to opt to take an AP course. You miss all the shots you don’t take!

    If you are getting ready to enter the college admissions process, we’ve got lots of other resources for you. Check out our 10 tips for a successful college application and our comparison of the SAT and ACT. You can also check out our guide to finding a financial safety school, and our guide on when to apply for college. Good luck with your application journey!

    Also read: Advice for low test takers

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Failing an AP exam is not the end of the world and will not affect your final grade in the class itself
    • Because you have the choice of sending your test score to certain colleges or not, you do not need to worry about them negatively impacting your admissions chances
    • The best way to avoid failing an AP exam is to start studying several weeks in advance and take advantage of study materials like practice exams or test prep tutors
    • AP courses that you take will still give you a GPA boost on your transcript, regardless of how well you do on the AP exam for that course because your class grade and final grade are seperate
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about what happens if you fail an AP test

    No, you won’t fail your AP class if you fail the exam for that class. The point of taking an AP exam for your courses is to try and earn college credit for those classes. Most colleges will like to see students earn a four or five on their exams in order to receive credit. However, it is up to the college to decide what they will and will not award credit for. So, check with the colleges you are applying to about their specific policies.

    If you get a one, nothing bad is going to happen to you. It’s true that you likely will not receive college credit for that class, but it won’t impact your final grade for the course. Additionally, you don’t have to share that score with the colleges you plan to apply to, meaning it won’t affect your admissions chances. The College Board has observed that students who get a score of 1 or 2 on their exams tend to do better on future AP exams, meaning that even if you score a 1 or 2, there’s still a benefit to it!  

    The most failed AP exam is Physics 1. This test has a pass rate of around fifty percent. However, before you begin looking up a daunting list about the pass rates for these exams, remember that those scores are not your score. Simply because a test has a fifty fifty pass rate, does not mean you are doomed. Do your best to study and seek out help from teachers and tutors. You’ve got this!

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