With all the standardized tests out there, AP exams are often underappreciated in the grand scheme of the college admissions/preparation process.
High AP scores can be a strong differentiating factor in your overall application, especially when applying to top tier schools. AP scores have the potential to demonstrate that you are pushing yourself to take the most rigorous coursework available to you and are capable of handling college-level material. Of course, every college wants to see that you are challenging yourself, but more importantly, the types of critical thinking skills you develop in taking these courses are precisely the sort of techniques you will need to succeed in your first year of college.
Beyond the admissions process, AP classes can be instrumental in determining your course load in college. More and more colleges are granting credit for AP scores (this even includes credit for a score of 3 on an exam, depending on the school) and there has also been a wider range of subject areas accepted by schools.
AP scores can ultimately save you time and money — whether that be allowing you to skip Intro to Econ or get credit for a course requirement entirely — your scores are bound to help you during your time in college in one way or another. It is also important to note that you can take an AP exam without having taken the course itself. If there is a subject area you feel confident reviewing on your own, you have nothing to lose by seeing how you do on the exam! Who knows — that $94 test could ultimately save you $1,800 to $3,000 by counting toward a three credit college course or, at the very least, allow you to skip some introductory courses/requirements, freeing up your schedule to take the courses you actually want to take sooner.
I can say from my personal experience matriculating at an Ivy League school that having a full semester’s worth of AP credit ensured that I graduated on time. My alma mater required a rather high number of credits to graduate, and despite taking a full load each semester, I came dangerously close to not hitting the full number of credits I needed.
If you are worried about low AP scores, don’t be! Advanced Placement scores are by no means a make or break factor in the admissions process. You can always withhold or cancel a score (you just have to make sure you request this by the appropriate deadline). You can also retake an AP exam the following year in May if you are unhappy with your scores — you just need to make sure you cancel the low score before the deadline so it can be removed from your record.
All in all, getting a high score on the AP exam proves to colleges that you are extremely well qualified for the rigors of college academics while also making you that much more prepared for the high-level analysis and reasoning that college classes require.
It might not seem like it now, but trust me: knowing how to make document inferences for APUSH, write thoughtful rhetorical analysis responses for AP Lang, or design an experiment that could be used to reject the null hypothesis for AP Bio are all essential skills that will position you to be a successful college student.
Emily Eckert, Education Associate