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Understanding AP Exam Scores

Fri, Jul 05, 2019 @ 10:00 AM

Understanding AP Exam ScoresHere's What Each AP Score Means

By Seamus, IvyWise Master Tutor

The first AP Exam scores are available today, and will continue to be released over the next few days. This is an exciting time for students who are eager to learn their results, but what exactly do these scores mean?

Many students decide to take an AP course and exam to stretch themselves academically and to boost their college applications. They studied long and hard and relished the buzz of an intellectually stimulating course of study and made it through the exam. Finally, the day of reckoning has arrived and many thousands of students across the country will receive their results, so let’s delve into the topic and examine what the test results mean for students and for admissions offices.

Why AP Scores Matter
First, let’s start with the very basics. Let’s remember why you took the AP course to begin with. Students generally take the AP because they are strong in a certain subject. They’re passionate about it, it speaks to them and they have the dedication, interest and mastery to keep up with both the workload and the complexity of the material to be covered. Then of course let’s not overlook two key reasons to take an AP course: To have the chance to gain college credit and strengthen your applicant profile in order to stand out to college admissions officers. Colleges do weigh AP results more heavily than regular high school classes; they realize just how stringent the expectations are and how accomplished those students are who do well.

What Your AP Scores Mean
AP Exam scores range from 1-5. These scores result from the combination of how well a student scored on the multiple-choice and freeform portions of the exam. These scores are the indicator of how well you performed on the day that you took the test, and this is the record that colleges will be scrutinizing. It’s important to note that the scores on the various AP subjects are not regarded as being equivalent as the tests are all unique and are scored differently. What follows is a general overview to give a broad understanding of how the scores will most likely be perceived.

1: This is the lowest that a student can receive and would mean that a student would receive no recommendation for college credit on this particular course. This is the score students dread and wouldn’t really gain the favor of any college admissions board. This is an AP Exam score that you definitely don’t want to report.

2: This score means you have a grasp of the material, but not really enough to receive college credit. To college admissions officers an AP Exam score of two might signal that you either didn’t really prepare for the test, aren’t at the standard the curriculum requires, or weren’t really ready to take it yet. In any of these instances, these could indicate such factors as poor awareness as to one’s ability or poor judgement as to the commitment required. For these reasons, it probably is not something you want to report.

3: This is a score that definitely shows more promise. It means that you may qualify to receive college credit for your AP course work, depending on the school’s standards. It also indicates a passing grade on a rather demanding test, especially for students at the high school level. Many colleges will give credit for a grade of 3, however some of the more selective colleges may not. This is a score you should consider reporting, depending on your applicant profile and need for college credit. This is where it’s good to meet with your college counselor to discuss your strategy around reporting test scores.  

4: This score is regarded as very good and is a mark of distinction. Achieving this level means both that you are fully conversant with the material and that you have put in the hard work required to reach this degree of accomplishment. Colleges will definitely be impressed, and most will give you college credit for this score.

5: This is the best that you can get. This is the gold standard and is obviously as good as it can get. Obviously, this is one that will impress colleges and add significantly to the strength of your application. Well done if you achieve this level of accomplishment!

Understanding your AP Exam results and how they can impact your college applications is important, so take the time to fully review your AP Exam results and consult with a college counselor or tutor if you need help deciding how to approach future AP courses and exams!

Our free Academics and Test Prep Checklist can help you get on track this summer! Download it today.

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