How do AP classes work?
The Advanced Placement (AP) program began in the 1950s to bridge the gap between high school and college education. Today, there are almost 40 different AP classes and exams with 4 million students enrolling in the US and around the world.
Each high school individually decides what classes they can offer. The College Board determines the content of each course with the input of college faculty and high school teachers. High school teachers deliver the content. Both college faculty and high school teachers are involved in the scoring of exams with The College Board overseeing the process.
The majority of students who take AP classes and exams take them in junior and senior year of high school.
How are AP classes and exams used by colleges?
Classes are often used in the admissions process to show the rigor of a student’s curriculum and a student’s capabilities for understanding more complex concepts.
AP exam scores are a bit different. Colleges don’t require official AP score reports until you enroll (more on that below), so at the time of application, you’re just self-reporting your AP scores up to that point (usually, through the end of junior year). Given that, we typically recommend that you report AP scores that you’re proud of and that you passed (3 or above). For more selective schools, they like to see a 4 or a 5 on the exam, and a good benchmark of what’s seen as a “good” score for a particular school is if they award credit for that score.
Each college determines what exams and what scores will give a student credit for college-level coursework. Typically, colleges will only give credit for exam scores of a 3, 4, or 5, and each school has their own limits for how many credits can be awarded towards graduation requirements.
In some cases, credit is not awarded, but a student may place out of introductory-level class requirements. If you’re a senior and you know what college you’re attending, you can usually search “AP credits + university name” to find a chart of what AP scores they accept, what score you’ll need to receive, and what credit it would give you or requirement it may waive.
You can also see some college policies for awarding credit here.
When are AP exams given? How are they given?
AP exams used to be given in school during the first two weeks of May. Due to COVID, the AP program has had to significantly change how and when exams are given. For 2021, exams will be given in 3 stages. According to The College Board website, this is the plan:
- In Administration 1, all exams are paper and pencil*, administered in school.
- In Administration 2, half of the subjects are paper and pencil*, administered in school, and half are digital, administered in school or taken at home.
- In Administration 3, most subjects are digital, administered in school or taken at home.
How should I prepare? What should I do before the test?
Students should first talk to their teachers about how to best prepare. There are also many materials online like the YouTube videos produced by The College Board, and Khan Academy, that students can use for preparation. Finally, there are many tutors available for students.
Like any test, students should plan their study schedule over several weeks. The night before the test should not be spent cramming, and instead students should rest up and hydrate well in preparation for the next day’s test. Exams are typically 3 hours in length and can be exhausting for even the most well-prepared student.
Please know you will need to follow any and all security protocols for each exam. Talk to the AP coordinator or counselor at your school for specific details. Typically students need identification for each exam.
How are AP exams scored? Why does it take so long to grade AP tests?
The College Board will continue to score the multiple-choice questions. In the past, college faculty and high school teachers convened in person for 2 weeks when school was over to score the short answer and essay sections, but due to COVID, most scoring will be done from their homes. This is a labor-intensive process with multiple readers for each exam. After both scoring pieces are done, The College Board determines a final score of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 for each exam. A score of 3 is considered good understanding of the material, while a 4 and 5 are seen as mastery of the material.
What to do in the meantime (while waiting for AP scores)?
After you take the exams, you should sit tight and relax, as you enjoy your summer. There is no need to even think about exams, as you wait for your scores.
When are scores released? How do I get my AP scores?
In the past, scores were always released around July 15th. Because of the changes in administering, we are unsure of the exact dates that students will receive their scores.
Scores have always been released online at the AP student website and in batches by geographic areas to ensure The College Board site does not crash. Scores are at apscore.org, and you need to provide the identifying number that was used on your exam, which could be either your AP number or your student ID number.
Note that if you took the exam on an alternate day from everyone else because of illness, accommodations, a religious holiday, or other reasons, you will receive your scores late. You should contact College Board if you don’t hear from them by later August.
AP Score Release Dates for 2021-2022
AP Scores will be released in July. You will be able to access them by logging into your College Board account. You can learn more here.
What to do after you get your AP scores?
If you are an underclassman with AP exam scores, there is no need to do anything else. Your high school will have access to your scores.
Otherwise, AP award designations are given in August for students who have completed a certain number of APs with a certain set of scores. Check The College Board site for specific details on AP Student awards.
If you are graduating senior, you will want to make sure your scores are released to the college you are attending, in case you can receive credit or waive any requirements. You will have to go online to your account to send scores to your new college. One set of scores can be sent for free, and additional sets can be sent for a fee. All previous scores are released when you request this. You may follow up with your academic adviser during orientation or the first week of classes about your AP scores to determine credits and class placements.
Finally, if you are unhappy with your score, you can ask for a cancellation of scores or, if you have a grading concern, you can contact College Board for a re-scoring on the multiple choice questions (free responses are never re-evaluated ) or to have a copy of your booklet returned to you without comments.
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