When you take Advanced Placement (AP) courses, it’s easy to assume your AP exam scores will automatically count toward college credit. While this is often true, it also depends on multiple factors, from your final score on the AP exam to the college application guidelines of each school. Some colleges accept AP results as credit, others offer advanced placement if you score well on AP exams, and some do neither but still consider AP courses when evaluating your college application.
What Are AP Classes?
AP classes are introduction-level college courses students can take in high school. The College Board offers 38 AP courses, covering core subjects like Psychology, Computer Science, Chinese, and European History. Each high school offers different AP courses depending on school budgets and the availability of qualified instructors.
All AP courses end with an AP exam that determines your final score. Most students should take the relevant course before sitting the exam, as the course syllabus is tailored to match the exam. However, students can take an AP exam if they already possess the skills and knowledge needed. For instance, a native Chinese speaker could take the AP Chinese exam.
What Is the Difference Between College Credit and Advanced Placement?
Some colleges offer credit for students who take AP exams. Others may offer advanced placement. Here’s how the two differ.
Colleges require students to earn a certain number of credits to graduate, usually 120 for an undergraduate degree. If you pass an AP exam, many colleges recognize AP test results and award you credit that’s equivalent to an introductory-level college course. You start college with credits towards your degree, may graduate faster, and save on tuition fees.
Some colleges won’t grant credit for high scores on AP tests but will acknowledge that you already know the material covered in the course. Advanced placement allows you to skip over an introductory college course so you can access more advanced courses. Students who earn enough advanced placements can open up space to pursue a double major in their course schedule.
It should be noted some colleges offer neither college credit nor advanced placement for AP classes but still consider a student’s performance on AP tests when evaluating their college application.
How Do You Know You’ll Receive College Credit for AP Classes?
The best way to check if a college will accept AP scores for credit or advanced placement is to contact the college and ask. Some colleges offer credit for AP exams, others do not, and still others only offer credit for certain AP classes. Colleges may require certain scores on AP tests before awarding credit, and those scores may differ depending on the AP course. Contacting colleges to ask about their policy regarding AP tests gives you a clear idea of the institution’s expectations and prevents unpleasant surprises during college applications.
Whether the AP test relates to your desired degree program is also important. AP Art History, for instance, does not match the needs of a Chemistry degree, so you’re less likely to earn college credits for it if chemistry is your chosen discipline. You may, however, be able to use AP exams to fulfill electives, even if they have little to do with your degree program.
How Do Colleges Access Your AP Exam Scores?
While you’ll self-report AP exam scores as part of your college application, you must request that the College Board send your AP score report to the college. Once the college receives your college report, they will advise you on any earned credit or advanced placement you’ve earned.
Should You Take an AP Course That Won’t Provide Credit?
College credit and advanced placement are not the only reasons to take an AP course. AP classes give you a taste of higher education’s academic expectations, better preparing you for college life. AP classes are also an opportunity to explore different subject areas, influencing what you want to get out of college.
Even if a college does not offer credit or placement for AP courses, high AP test results still look good on a college application. Taking AP courses shows you’re willing to challenge yourself academically and have the drive to succeed at the college level. AP exam results can also give your Weighted GPA a boost, potentially increasing your GPA to more than a 4.0. College application boards look very favorably on students with such impressive GPAs.