what is AP

AP Exams Unlocked: Your Path to College Credits Revealed

AP courses may help you get into a selective school.

Because AP course grades have weight, they can boost your weighted GPA.

Taking them also increases academic rigor and eligibility for certain scholarships.

AP courses can do all that except win you some college credits.

Sitting for AP exams is what you need to do if you want to earn credit, save money, and graduate faster.

In most instances, colleges award credit for challenging AP tests with a score of at least 3 — aiming for 4 or 5 is better if you are looking to attend a competitive institution.

AP Exams vs. IB Exams: What’s the Difference?

When talking about AP exams, it’s not unlikely for many students to also discuss IB exams.

AP tests are a part of the AP program, administered by the College Board.

Meanwhile, IB exams are a part of the International Baccalaureate program (IB) program, administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

Reduced Fees for AP Exams and IB Exams

AP exams cost $98 each.

On the other hand, IB exams cost $135 each.

There is no such thing as an AP exam fee waiver, although students from low-income backgrounds who are eligible for an AP exam fee reduction only need to pay $53 per examination.

Fee reductions on IB exams can vary from district to district or from state to state.

In New York, for instance, reduced IB exams cost only $5 each.

38 AP Exams vs. One IB Diploma Exam

Students can choose from 38 AP exams.

Meanwhile, to earn an IB diploma, students have to take only a single test.

However, the test consists of six subject groups, each coming from a different level in terms of difficulty — three are from the standard level (SL) and three from the higher level (HL).

Students may choose to take only certain IB exams, but it will not earn them an IB diploma.

IB Exams Require IB Courses, AP Exams Don’t

Students can sit for AP exams whether or not they took AP courses.

Similarly, high school teens may take the particular AP course of their liking throughout the academic year and then choose to take an AP test for an entirely different AP course.

On the other hand, only those who take IB courses are eligible to take IB exams.

Colleges Award Credit for AP Exams and IB Exams

Many colleges and universities in the United States give credit to AP exams and IB exams.

In most instances, schools award college credit for specific AP exam subjects that meet a minimum score.

Although some postsecondary institutions award college credit for individual IB exams with a passing score, others only give credit to students with a full IB diploma.

So, Should You Take AP Exams or IB Exams?

Both AP exams and IB exams have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

It’s crucial to consider your examination preferences and academic goals in college when deciding whether AP exams or IB exams are the ones you should register for in high school.

AP Exam Credit Policy

Taking AP exams of your choosing to earn credit in college won’t do — it’s a must that you take AP exams that your top-choice college accepts, often some of the most challenging AP subjects around.

Of course, getting a passing score of 3 is also crucial.

For those who are eyeing selective institutions, unfortunately, they may have to get a 4 or 5.

Therefore, you must check out your dream school’s AP credit policy to determine which AP exams you must take and how high your scores should be to earn credit.

Meeting the Minimum Score to Earn College Credit

As mentioned, there are 38 AP exams to choose from.

However, most institutions of higher education do not give college credit to all of them.

In most instances, they give credit to some of the most challenging AP exams only, which is almost always the case with competitive schools participating in the AP program.

What’s more, they give credit only if students earn the minimum required score.

Numerous AP program participating colleges require a minimum score of 3, although you can expect selective ones to require AP exam scores of 4 or 5 for credit.

The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, accepts only AP exam scores of 5 and nothing else!

Meanwhile, Princeton University, another Ivy League like UPenn, is more forgiving.

Here are the AP exams and their minimum scores that Princeton awards college credits to:

AP ExamMinimum ScoreNumber of Credits
AP Biology52
AP Calculus AB51
AP Calculus BC54
AP Chemistry41
AP Chemistry51
AP English Literature and Composition51
AP European History41
AP French Language and Culture52
AP German Language and Culture52
AP Italian Language and Culture52
AP Latin52
AP Macroeconomics51
AP Microeconomics51
AP Physics 152
AP Physics 252
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism52
AP Physics C: Mechanics42
AP Physics C: Mechanics52
AP Spanish Language and Culture52
AP United States History41
AP World History: Modern41

AP Exams for Advanced College Placement

Some colleges participating in the AP program may not award credit for AP exams.

Instead, they offer placement into advanced courses.

Brown University is one example of those institutions that offer advanced course placement for students with AP exam scores but do not allow them to earn any college credit.

Here are the AP exams and scores you need to take advanced courses at Brown:

AP ExamMinimum ScoreEquivalent Course
AP Biology4BIOL 0200
AP Calculus AB4MATH 0090
AP Calculus BC3MATH 0090
AP Calculus BC4MATH 0090 and MATH 0100
AP Environmental Science5ENVS 0490
AP French Language and Culture5FREN 0500
AP French Language and Culture4FREN 0400
AP German Language and Culture4GRMN 0400
AP Italian Language and Culture4ITAL 0300
AP Italian Language and Culture5ITAL 0400
AP Macroeconomics4Economics 0110
AP Microeconomics4Economics 0110

Many colleges accept numerous AP exams for credit.

Purdue University – West Lafayette, for example, accepts nearly 40 AP exams for advanced placement purposes — you only need to get a score of 3 for many of them for advanced courses.

Many AP exams Purdue accepts can also place you into multiple advanced courses.

For instance, here are the equivalent courses for the AP German Language and Culture Exam with a score of 5:

  • GER 10100
  • GER 10200
  • GER 20100
  • GER 20200

What It’s Like to Take AP Exams

According to the US Department of Education, high test anxiety is prevalent in 15% to 22% of students.

Of course, it may cause you to get a low score.

Knowing what an AP exam is like can help relieve some of your anxiety, and it also allows you to formulate the appropriate testing strategy so that you can sit for the AP exam with more ease and confidence.

Two Main Sections and Occasional Subsections

AP exams are standardized tests because all test-takers must answer the same set of questions.

The grading of their AP exams is the same, too.

Like other standardized examinations such as the SAT and ACT, AP tests come in different sections.

Most AP exams come in two sections — it’s not unlikely for a main section to comprise two subsections.

The AP French Language and Culture Exam, for instance, has multiple subsections:

  • Section 1A
  • Section 1B
  • Section 2A
  • Section 2B

Types of Questions to Answer

AP exams have two question formats:

  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Free-response questions

In most instances, the first section of an AP examination consists of multiple-choice questions — some questions have four answer options, while others have as many as five answer options.

The second section of many AP exams consists of free-response questions.

Of course, you will find free-response questions in AP exams with writing components.

How Long are AP Exams?

AP exams take one to three hours long.

But it’s worth pointing out that most AP exams are closer to three hours.

It’s also important to remember that some are longer than three hours!

How long you must sit for an AP exam depends on the number of questions to answer and the difficulty level of the subject — typically, the more challenging the AP exam, the longer the exam time.

Here are some AP exams and their duration:

AP ExamDuration
AP Art History3 hours
AP Biology3 hours
AP Calculus AB3 hours and 15 minutes
AP Calculus BC3 hours and 15 minutes
AP Chemistry3 hours and 15 minutes
AP Computer Science A3 hours
AP English Language and Composition3 hours and 15 minutes
AP English Literature and Composition3 hours
AP Environmental Science2 hours and 40 minutes
AP European History3 hours and 15 minutes
AP Human Geography2 hours and 15 minutes
AP Latin3 hours
AP Macroeconomics2 hours and 10 minutes
AP Physics 13 hours
AP Physics 23 hours
AP Psychology2 hours
AP Spanish Language and Culture3 hours and 3 minutes
AP Spanish Literature and Culture3 hours
AP Statistics3 hours
AP United States History3 hours and 15 minutes
AP World History: Modern3 hours and 15 minutes

Bring Your Own Calculator

Fact: you can answer math questions on the AP exam without a calculator.

You must hand copy, date, and sign the Calculator Release Statement on the test day, which your AP coordinator or proctor will provide before the test begins.

However, that would be unwise because, like other tests, AP exams are timed examinations.

Ensure you put a calculator in your bag before heading to the testing location — your designated test center won’t provide you with one.

Be warned: not all devices that can calculate are permissible!

Click on this link to check out the updated list of calculator models the College Board allows.

AP Calculators Not Allowed
AP Calculators Not Allowed

Are AP Exams Computerized?

According to the College Board, it’s up to high schools to choose between paper and digital AP exams.

They may also choose a combination of paper and digital tests.

It’s not too long ago when digital AP exams became available.

Not all AP exams are available in digital format.

Here are AP exam subjects that you may take digitally:

  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP European History
  • AP Seminar
  • AP U.S. History
  • AP World History: Modern
  • AP African American Studies

Digital AP exams are the same as paper AP exams in terms of administration date, number of questions, number of sections, and content — the only difference is that you take them using a computer.

Can I Guess on the AP Exam?

There is no penalty for wrong answers on the AP Exam.

Because of this, you should consider guessing if you absolutely don’t know the answer to a question — you get one correct score if you guessed correctly and no unfavorable consequence if you guessed incorrectly.

However, there is a right way to guess on your AP exam, and it’s not randomly picking an answer.

What you need to do is eliminate answer options you believe are wrong.

The more wrong answers you eliminate, the higher your chances of getting the correct answer.

Eliminating one incorrect answer from the five answer options, for instance, increases your chances of answering the question correctly from 20% to 25%.

Eliminating three incorrect ones increases your chances to 50%!

What is a Good AP Exam Score?

A good AP exam score is a 3, which also happens to be the passing score.

It’s also the score you should aim for if you are looking to earn college credit.

Are you planning on attending a competitive school?

Then aim for a 4 or 5 AP exam score to earn course credit — go for a score of 5 if the college is highly selective (or check its AP credit policy by using this tool by the College Board).

You may also compare your AP exam score with the average score for your test year.

As an example, the average AP exam score was 2.96.

How Many Times Can I Retake the AP Exam?

You can retake the AP exam each administration date: once a year in May.

There is no limit as to how many times you can take AP exams throughout your high school career.

Are you unhappy with your score and believe you can do better?

Consider retaking the same AP exam the following year — you may choose to withhold or cancel your lower score after getting the result of your subsequent test.

AP Practice Tests

Before you go, give the following sample AP exam questions a try.

It’s a great idea to take practice tests to determine whether or not AP exams are suitable for the kind of learner and test taker you are — I would suggest taking sample IB exam questions, too, afterward.

AP English Literature

Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none; so thick entwined,
As one continued brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed (line 5)
All path of man or beast that passed that way.
One gate there only was, and that looked east
On the other side. Which when the Arch-Felon saw,
Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt,
At one slight bound high overleaped all bound (line 10)
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve,
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure, (line 15)
Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold;
Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles; (line 20)
So climb this first grand Thief into God’s fold:
So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb.

1. Satan’s action is best described as:

  • A) Trespass
  • B) Usurpation
  • C) Betrayal
  • D) Dream
  • E) Consecration

2. In line 5, “perplexed” is best interpreted to mean:

  • A) Widened
  • B) Complicated
  • C) Questioned
  • D) Endangered
  • E) Discovered

3. In which of the lines does an epic smile begin?

  • A) Line 1
  • B) Line 4
  • C) Line 10
  • D) Line 12
  • E) Line 20

4. Which of the lines contains a play on words?

  • A) Line 3
  • B) Line 6
  • C) Line 10
  • D) Line 14
  • E) Line 20

5. In line 15, “hurdled cotes” refers to:

  • A) Blocked paths
  • B) Natural obstacles
  • C) Fenced enclosures
  • D) Wool garments
  • E) Steep hills

Answer key:

  • 1. A
  • 2. B
  • 3. D
  • 4. C
  • 5. C

AP Precalculus

1. The function f is given by f(x) = + 2sin(4x) + cos(2x). Using the period of f, which of the following is the number of complete cycles of the graph of f in the xy-plane on the interval 0 ≤ x ≤ 1000?

  • A) 159
  • B) 318
  • C) 602
  • D) 636

2. In a certain simulation, the population of a bacteria colony can be modeled using a geometric sequence, where the first day of the simulation is day 1. The population on day 4 was 4,000 bacteria, and the population on day 8 was 49,000 bacteria. What was the population of the colony on day 6 based on the simulation?

  • A) 26,500
  • B) 26,192
  • C) 14,000
  • D) 611

3. The polynomial function p is given by p(x) = (x + 3) (x2 – 2x – 15). Which of the following describes the zeros of p?

  • A) p has exactly two distinct real zeros.
  • B) p has exactly three distinct real zeros.
  • C) p has exactly one distinct real zero and no non-real zeros.
  • D) p has exactly one distinct real zero and two non-real zeros.

4. Fully expand the expression: (x + 4)2

  • A) x + 16
  • B) X2 + 16
  • C) X2 + 8x + 16
  • D) X2 + 8x + 8

5. Let f be a rational function that is graphed in the xy-plane. Consider x = 1 and x = 7. The polynomial in the numerator of f has a zero at x = 1 and does not have a zero at x = 7. The polynomial in the denominator of f has zeros at both x = 1 and x = 7. The multiplicities of the zeros at x = 1 in the numerator and in the denominator are equal. Which of the following statements is true?

  • A) The graph of f has holes at both x = 1 and x = 7
  • B) The graph of f has a vertical asymptote at x = 1 and a hole at x = 7
  • C) The graph of f has a hole at x = 1 and a vertical asymptote at x = 7
  • D) The graph of f has vertical asymptotes at both x = 1 and x = 7

Answer key:

  • 1. B
  • 2. C
  • 3. A
  • 4. C
  • 5. C

The sample questions above are from the following sites:

Read Next: What is IB?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Similar Posts