Receiving a successful score on your AP® exam is a good way to make a good impression on your college applications, but you should know that a good score can also provide you with college credit. Based on your score, the AP exam ranks your qualifications to receive this credit. Not all colleges offer college credit for AP exam scores, so it is important that you research the guidelines for the colleges and universities you are applying to.
As you prepare for AP exams and work hard in your AP classes, setting goals is an important part of the AP test prep process. Most AP exams consist of multiple-choice and free-response questions and are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. So, you are likely wondering, what is a good AP test score?
Whether you are using the AP scores for college credit, course placement, or to boost your impression on the admissions board, knowing how each score benefits you is a good place to start for your goal-setting strategy.
Recommendations For College Credit Based On AP Exam Scores
Non-Passing AP Scores
After completing your exam, it will be scored on a scale from 1 to 5. Receiving a 1 translates to a student who is not recommended to receive college credit for the AP course. Receiving a 2 translates to a student who is possibly qualified to receive college credit for the AP course. Receiving either a 1 or a 2 is not considered passing the AP exam, and you are not likely to receive college credit with either of these scores.
Passing AP Scores
In general, colleges interpret exams receiving 3, 4, or 5 as passing scores. Passing the exam does not guarantee that you will receive college credit for the course. It also does not guarantee that you will be able to use your results for course placement.
The decision to offer college credit or use the AP exams for course placement varies from school to school. Take some time to research which scores are necessary for each of your potential colleges.
What Scores Receive College Credit?
Receiving a 3 recommends a student as qualified to receive college credit for the AP course. Receiving a 4 recommends a student as very well qualified to receive college credit for the AP course. Receiving a 5 is the highest score you can receive. Students who receive a 5 are recommended as extremely well qualified for college credit.
In order to have the best possible chance of receiving college credit for an AP course, you need to receive a 4 or 5. Some universities also allow exams that receive a 3 to grant college credit, but you will need to research each schools’ qualifications to learn more.
In general, if you are given a 3 or higher, then your exam’s performance has demonstrated that you are at the very least “qualified” to pass a college class.
Benefits Of A Good AP Score
So how does a “good” score benefit you? Ultimately, if you do well on the exams you may be able to skip entry-level college courses. This means that you will not only save tuition money by taking fewer courses, but you will also be able to pursue high-level classes early in your college career.
Some students are able to skip more than one entry-level course by taking several AP exams. If you receive more than one passing AP score, then you may be able to skip more than one entry-level course. If you plan to graduate with a double major or a major and a minor, then testing out of entry-level courses may be particularly beneficial to the heavy course load you will face as an undergraduate student.
You should know that AP exams vary in difficulty. For example, AP score distributions from 2021 show that only 4.9% of students taking the AP English Literature and Composition exam received a 5, while 57.2% of students taking the AP Chinese Language and Culture exam received a 5.
There are many factors that play into these score distributions, but you should know that failing to receive a 5 does not mean that you have failed your exam. Each AP subject varies in difficulty, and you can use data from score distributions to better shape your understanding of what a “good” score was for the specific exam in a specific year.
What Scores Are Good Enough To Send To Colleges And Universities?
Remember colleges and universities do not typically require AP exams as part of the college application process. This means that lower scores do not need to be submitted with your college application. If you do not do well on the AP exam, your potential colleges and universities will never know. With this in mind, your AP scores should only serve to help you. It is largely recommended that students only send AP scores ranging from 3 to 5.
Colleges and universities want to see applicants who are enrolling in challenging courses and doing well pursuing their academic interests. Use AP exams and AP courses as an opportunity to show off your academic strengths by studying and preparing to reach your full scoring potential.
As you prepare for the AP exams that follow your AP courses, you should aim to receive a 3, 4, or 5. If you are applying to any Ivy League schools or more competitive universities, then you should expect that a 4 or higher will be necessary if you want your performance to be considered for college credit or college placement.
Research To Personalize And Shape Your Goals
Considering how scores 1 through 5 describe your preparedness for college-level classes, your next step when setting goals for your AP exams should be to research the qualifications for course credit and course placement for each of your target schools.
If all of your schools consider a 4 to be satisfactory for course credit, then a 5 may not be necessary for you. Remember, these guidelines may vary from major to major, and school to school. Be diligent in your research to build a strong understanding of how much improvement is necessary before test day.
You can also use the information in your research to understand how your scores will be evaluated after you have taken the exam. Perhaps you have just received your score report and have no idea how to interpret your performance. If you received 3s on some exams, and 4s and 5s on others, then you need to research how your future schools use AP scores before you send them your score report.
Ultimately, your test prep and effort throughout the year in your high school AP classes should set you up to do your best on the exam. Still, you will need to dedicate time outside of your normal class time and homework to prepare for the official AP exams.
FLEX College Prep can help build a study plan that is customized to your goals and needs. Whether you are looking to get a perfect score or hone your skills before test day, our experienced instructors and efficient courses can guide you to success. FLEX offers support for every single AP course and AP exam, so any AP student can be confident that their college applications are competitive. Maximize your scores with FLEX College Prep!
Students need to stand out in the competitive admissions landscape. FLEX College Prep is a team of the best strategists in the industry and takes a holistic approach to ensure students use their pre-college years in intentional, enriching, and personally satisfying ways. Since 2001, we’ve worked with families to help students unlock their potential and find happiness, meaning, and success in college and beyond.