All You Need to Know: AP Exam Scores

AP Exam Scores: All you need to know

Posted by

Demonstrating your Ability

One of the main difficulties for college admission officers is the fact that students come from different schools, states, and even countries from around the world. It is impossible to know how one school’s Honors Chemistry class compares to another, or how one student’s A+ in Advanced English relates to another student’s A in their Shakespeare in Depth course.

AP Courses and AP Exams provide a standard course curriculum and common exams that can be used by admission officers and other college administrators to get a better understanding of a student’s background in various subjects. As many colleges are putting less of an emphasis on standardized test scores (such as the SAT or ACT), AP Courses and AP Exam scores are a great way for students to supplement their resume when applying for top colleges.

All certified AP courses follow topics and a schedule approved by the College Board, but grades and grade distributions can still vary widely by school. Therefore, scoring well on the AP Exams at the end of the school year is very important to students. All AP Exams are scored on a 5 point scale. According to the College Board, the scores represent the following:

  • 5: Extremely well qualified (corresponds to an A+ or A for a college course)
  • 4: Very well qualified (corresponds to an A-, B+, or B for a college course)
  • 3: Qualified (corresponds to a B-, C+, or C for a college course)
  • 2: Possibly qualified
  • 1: No recommendation

Score distributions vary by exam, but based on College Board data from the 2020 exams, roughly 20% of students scored a 5, 23% of students scored a 4, and 27% of students scored a 3 on AP Exams. Scoring a 5 definitely helps a student stand out!

Get College Credit and Save Time & Money

While many students take AP courses and exams to help them get into good colleges, the benefits of good scores on AP Exams really start in college.

Most colleges accept scores on AP Exams for college credit. While a score of 3 is generally the baseline for “passing” an AP Exam and receiving college credit, many top colleges require higher scores. For example, Harvard only accepts scores of 5 for college credit, while certain programs at UC Berkeley only allow students to skip courses with a score of a 4 or 5. Be sure to do your own research or talk to a guidance counselor to help understand how your AP scores can be applied in college.

Good AP Exam scores often allow students to get ahead in college. Even if a specific major has difficult requirements for skipping courses, other AP Exams such as History, English, or a Foreign Language can help students with electives. MIT, for instance, does not give credit for many STEM exams, but students can still use a humanities AP score for electives.

Even generic college credit has its benefits, such as advanced standing which may allow students to register earlier for courses (making it easier to fill in a good schedule), apply to their major before other students, or even graduate early. Working hard to score well on AP Exams can definitely pay off in the future!

Practice, Practice, Practice!

In addition to working hard during a school’s AP course, additional practice and review is important for scoring well on the AP exam. The College Board has many resources for students preparing for AP Exams.

Areteem offers different programs for students getting ready for AP Exams. Many students find extra structure helpful when doing a final review for an AP Exam. Check out our 8 Week Prep Courses held before the exams each spring for systematic review including practice problems and instructor feedback.

Good luck to everyone taking an AP Exam this year!

Share this post!