“Do I have to take AP exams?”
As a guidance counselor who works with high school juniors and seniors, this is a question that I get asked pretty often. This is for a few reasons:
- For seniors, you have already applied to college and are just waiting for your admissions decisions. Why would you want to take another test?
- For juniors, you are busy preparing for SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject tests, so Advanced Placement exams seem like an afterthought
- Taking standardized tests are not fun
I totally get these reasons, and generally do not advocate takings tests just for the heck of it. However, Advanced Placement tests are unique in that many colleges will give students actual college credit for attaining specific scores on AP exams (typically, scores of 4 out of 5 or above will qualify a student for credit). If you take three AP classes and achieve a score of 4 or 5, this can easily save you $12,000+ in college tuition. Students who receive even more credit can even graduate a semester or year early! A pretty sweet deal right? There is no downside to taking AP tests; If you do not score well enough, you simply will not get the credit.
How do I find out which colleges offer AP credit?
The College Board has a handy search tool to help students see which institutions offer credit for specific scores on AP tests. Instead of offering credit, some schools may offer students placement in higher level courses if they attain a specific score. This is very much a school by school policy, so we recommend that you check out that tool from the College Board.
What if my high school doesn’t offer AP classes?
Many high schools are moving away from Advanced Placements coursework, but this doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on taking AP tests. edX, the online platform started by MIT and Harvard, offers a number of AP classes online for free! These classes can also be helpful prep tools for students who are currently enrolled in AP coursework!
Do AP tests results matter in the admissions process?
Generally, they do not matter very much. The vast majority of American colleges do not require AP test for their admissions process. Instead, students can self-report AP test results on their application (we usually recommend that students only report 4s and 5s). If you do not score well, you can just omit the scores from your application. The only situation where AP tests really matter is if you are applying for college in the UK where AP test results are required.
If you are taking AP classes, then taking the AP tests should be a no-brainer. Even if your school does not formally offer AP tests, it can be a really smart move to take the tests and potentially save a ton of money on college tuition!