AP scores have just come out for 2019. If you have not yet received your scores, you can do so now by logging into your AP account at the following web address: https://apscore.collegeboard.org/scores/.
So, will you be delighted or disappointed? Will you receive credit for your tests? Will your scores help you get into the college of your dreams? Will your scores allow you to test out of certain basic college courses? The answers to all these questions depend on a number of factors, including the individual policies of the colleges you are applying to, and, of course, the scores themselves. The AP credit policies of top colleges vary dramatically. Some offer credit toward graduation. Some allow you to bypass core-level classes in favor of more advanced classes. Some even offer students with extraordinary AP accomplishments the opportunity to earn a Master’s degree in four years. Other colleges offer no AP credit whatsoever.
Basic Facts about AP Exams
- For admissions, all highly selective colleges expect students to take APs if offered at their high school. The more APs your high school offers, the more APs you are expected to take.
- Most colleges grant graduation credit for scores of 3 or above. “More selective” schools require a score of 4 or 5, and some “Most selective” schools require a score of 5. Still other colleges, or departments within colleges, do not give any credit for AP’s.
- Most colleges that do not offer graduation credit for APs may still allow you to test out of certain required courses by earning high scores on AP exams.
Beyond the Basics
Starting in the fall of 2020, Harvard students will no longer receive graduation credits for AP tests. Harvard joins Dartmouth College and Brown University which have had long-standing policies against giving graduation credit for AP test performance. Cornell University, U Penn, Princeton University, Yale University, and Bates College all grant credit for scores of 4 or 5, depending on the subject. MIT offers credit for scores of 5 on some exams, but not others. As for Princeton and many other colleges, you may be able to graduate up to a year early if you accumulate enough AP credits and continue to perform well in higher level courses in each subjects in which you took an AP test. So, as you can see, the AP landscape in colleges is rather complex.
Regardless of the advice given to you by your counselor, you should check each college’s individual policy with regard to AP credit. This is because policies at major colleges are ever-changing. Meanwhile, let me make it clear that taking APs and performing well on tests is every bit as important for admission as it always has been. If your dream is to attend a highly competitive college and your school offers AP courses, it is expected that you prove your passion and your willingness to work hard by taking several AP courses and exams. If your school’s policy does not permit you to take any, or many, this will not be counted against you. Top colleges simply want to see that you have done the most with the opportunities that you have been given. Fewer opportunities means lower expectations.
Underclassmen: Not Happy with Your Scores? You Can Take the Test Again
As you are likely familiar, AP tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Generally, 4’s and 5’s are considered to be very good, 3’s are considered average or acceptable, and 1’s and 2’s are considered below average and rarely result in either graduation credit or bypassing certain core curriculum courses. Scores on AP tests are based on content knowledge and writing ability. If your score is lower than expected, the reason could be either one of these two facets. If you feel your score is not reflective of your ability or knowledge, you can set up take the same tests next year. The obvious downside is that the material will not be fresh in your mind, since you have already taken the course related to the test in the previous year.
APs Come with Score Choice
If you take an AP exam and do not perform well, you do not have to report that score to colleges. In fact, you can pick and choose which AP test scores are sent to colleges, even those taken during the same testing cycle. In other words, if you are happy with two out of three of your scores, you may elect to release only the two you are happy with. However, just be aware that not submitting an AP test score for an AP subject may be a red flag to colleges. Still, that may be preferable to dealing with an extremely low score.
Taking AP classes and performing well on AP tests remains critically important for those students applying to highly competitive colleges. Not only is it important for admission, it is important for placement and, in some cases, to earn graduation credit that may lead to either early graduation or the ability to take more advanced level courses in college. If anyone tells you AP tests are not as important as they once were or that you do not have to take AP tests to get into top colleges, you need to look elsewhere for advice. The other factors that are critically important for college admission are:
- Level of Academic Rigor
- SAT/ACT test scores
- Demonstrated Interest
- Extracurricular Activities
- Proving your Passion
- Extraordinary Talent
- The Interview
- The Common Application Essay
- College Supplemental Essays
In order to strengthen your case for admission, it is best to have all of these factors maximized. APs are just one piece of the puzzle, but they are an essential piece for highly competitive colleges. I hope that all of your scores came back better than expected! Meanwhile, if you have any questions about APs or any other aspect of college admission or private school admission, please reach out to us immediately. We are always happy to answer your questions.
Neil Chyten, Founder
NC Global Education