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Everything You Need to Know About AP Exams

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Taken in May at schools around the world, AP Exams help students show their mastery of particular subjects to potential colleges. Most of the time, these are taken after completing an AP class but sometimes these classes are not offered at a particular high school. If a student is home-schooled or enrolled at a school that does not offer AP classes, he can still sign up for these exams directly with AP Services.

Why Take an AP Exam?

AP exams highlight a student’s particular skill in one of the 38 subjects offered. This can strengthen their application to a particular program, especially if the focus of their major is in this area. Colleges aim to have a well-rounded student body, with a variety of skillsets and interests. Highlighting an exceptional score on the AP Statistics exam, for example, is appealing to schools who want to improve their position in this subject.

Students who take AP Exams are seen by colleges as going above and beyond in their effort, making them more appealing applicants overall. Only a small percentage of students actually take these tests, putting one who does in an elite category. Especially for students who had to seek out the exam, colleges recognize and may potentially reward this effort.

Most colleges in the United States and around the world also offer credit or advanced placement for those students who score a 3 or higher on their AP exams. This is a big reward for the time and effort a student puts into achieving a mastery of these subject areas. Not only does this allow a student to move into upper-level courses quicker, but it may allow him to graduate faster, saving him money in tuition costs.

What Can I Expect at the AP Exam?

Whether it is for college credit, advanced placement, or to boost a student’s application to his dream college, taking an AP exam is a smart move. Preparing for these 2-3 hour long tests through online resources or one-on-one preparation can be invaluable in helping a student do their best. These tests are challenging and only offered once a year in May. Since a student only gets one shot to do well, it is important to walk in the day of the test with confidence and feeling prepared.

Each of the exams is unique but almost all have a few things in common. The first part of the exam typically consists of multiple-choice questions with four or five answer options. This section is scored on the number of questions answered correctly. The second section includes free-response questions that require a student to generate his own responses. This can be an essay, solution to a problem, or a spoken response.

Scoring is a weighted combination of a student’s scores on each of the two sections. The AP Score is based on a 5-point scale:

5 = extremely well qualified

4 = well qualified

3 = qualified

2 = possibly qualified

1 = no recommendation

Colleges typically grant credit or advanced placement for scores of 3 and above, although this varies from school to school. Individual AP exams have some differences in their scoring but this scale remains the same on all tests.


Greg Kiep  


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