Apply to vetted scholarship programs in one clickAdvertiser disclosure
Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
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.
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.
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.
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